Seeing my son’s eyes light up when he saw the geology exhibit at the science museum in Portland made me tear up. I don’t remember the last time I looked at anything with that kind of wonder and excitement… maybe when I saw him for the first time…

I always try to take one of my children to the different education conferences I attend each year. At a recent conference in Oregon, it was my 10-year-old son’s turn to be my travel buddy; his name is Conner. Over the past several months, Conner has become increasingly excited about geology. Since Portland has a wonderful science museum, on the last day of the conference, Conner and I headed in that direction and kept our fingers crossed there would be a geology exhibit… and there was!

Unprompted, Conner brought a notebook and pencil so he could record observations if, in fact, there was a geology exhibit at the museum. I was in awe of my son’s intense wonder and excitement, the way his face lit up and his jaw dropped when he saw the geology exhibit for the first time. I started snapping pictures when he wasn’t looking (see below) and began to make a mental list of different ways I could continue to cultivate this wonder and excitement when we returned home.

In my busyness as a professor mom, I realized Conner had asked me for “scientist” supplies before our trip to Portland and that I had not found any for him. When we returned home, Conner and I rummaged through the house for “scientist gear.” I was determined to support his wonder and excitement to the fullest extent possible. Based on Conner’s wish list, we found the following items:

  1. Dad’s old white button-down shirt (lab coat)
  2. Safety glasses from yard work and home projects
  3. Latex gloves
  4. A kitchen colander (dirt sifter)
  5. A shovel and paintbrush (for digging and dusting off specimens)
  6. Eye brow tweezers (to avoid contamination of rock specimens)- Conner found these!

I let his imagination run free. I allowed him to turn his room into a science lab/museum. He decided to use an old book shelf to display his rock collection (see pictures below). We found several books at the library that he could use to identify different rocks in his collection and to create labels. In his notebook, he listed criteria to support his choice of each label. We went to his school and spent time digging for rocks that he could add to his museum (see pictures below). During other time spent outside and even when we were simply running different errands together, we continued to lookout for new “specimens.” I even helped him start a geology blog (his idea) with

I listened. Even when some of his rock classifications seemed questionable, I listened and then posed higher-level questions that led him to think about his classifications more deeply. For example, during a dinner-rock conversation one night, I asked the following: If you really believe that yellowish rock is Orpiment, and Orpiment is toxic and potentially deadly, how do you think I was able to hold it in my hand the other day and not experience any harm afterwards?

I learned from my child. I found that through supporting my son, I started to become more curious and to observe my surroundings more closely than I ever had before. I began reading about rocks, so I could ask him questions and engage him more fully in his interest. I started to see the world again through a child’s eyes, and I am so grateful to my son for this.