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Investigate Geology at Explorit

This article appeared in the September 12, 2014 edition of the Davis Enterprise.


By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise


The next time you visit Explorit Science Center, be sure to look down.  That’s right—down!  You just might find something special.  Maybe it’s sparkly.  Maybe it’s from far away.  Or maybe it’s millions of years old!


Specimens from Explorit’s geology collection are now on display, adorning the grounds around Explorit’s entrance and backyard area.  Visitors can stroll the grounds and stumble upon a volcanic rock from Hawaii or an ammonite, a fossilized sea creature 65-240 million years old!


Bring the samples into Explorit to examine with the probe microscope so you get an up-close look projected on a television screen.  Or bring them to our new geology investigation station in the backyard.


At the geology investigation station you will find more information about a variety of rock and fossil samples as well as materials to perform geology experiments.  Squirt your sample with a little water to see how it affects the rock’s appearance.  Does water make your rock sparkle?  Does it change color when wet?  Or does it look pretty much the same?  Why do you think water could cause a change in appearance?


Or put your rock to the scratch test.  Scrape your rock across one of the unglazed tiles and see what happens.  Did your rock leave a mark?  What color was the mark?  Was it the same color as the rock?


This scratch test is one step scientists use to identify an unknown rock or mineral sample.  If the rock does not leave a mark on the tile, that indicates it is made of a harder substance like quartz.  If the sample does leave a mark, the color of that mark can tell scientists something about its mineral composition.


Also at the geology investigation you can check out models of the layers of the earth’s surface and different rock samples from different features of the earth’s crust.  From Peridotite, a common igneous rock in the earth’s upper mantle, to Chalk, which forms like Limestone from bits of sea shells that get buried and eventually harden into stone, there’s much to explore.


Compare Basalt, Diorite and Obsidian, three different rocks all born from magma.  Magma is the liquid, molten rock beneath the earth’s surface that we call lava when it emerges through volcanic action.  As magma cools at different speeds in different places, it forms various rocks.  Obsidian is the result of rapidly cooling magma, while slowly cooling magma can produce Diorite.  Basalt comes from magma that rises through the ocean and cools near the earth’s surface.


These and many more geologic wonders await just beneath your feet at Explorit!



Explorit’s coming events:


  • Explorit’s Beautiful World: Science and Art exhibition is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free.
  • Interested in membership?  Think your Explorit membership may have lapsed?  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 to check or sign up!
  • Birthdays are back at Explorit!  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 for more information or to book your party.

Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” us on Facebook at

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