Engaging kids is challenging. I love science, but not everyone finds it as interesting as I do. It’s so frustrating when I’ve crafted a lesson that I think is so interesting and it falls flat. It’s tough to engage middle schoolers in science. One of the quickest ways I’ve found to get kids interested in science, though, is by story telling. So I tell them about Gregor Mendel and describe (what I imagine) life at the monastery was like. I tell them about Galileo’s house arrest and that Rosalind Franklin never won a Nobel Prize. Sometimes, they remember the house arrest but forget what Galileo did, but, for the most part, story telling helps kids relate to and remember the science.
The premise of the book is that the author has chosen 25 events in history that have a type of rock as a pivotal component. Each chapter is devoted to the story of one of those 25 rocks and the events in history it precipitated. It’s told in the style of a story teller, which appeals to me, but it also combines history, sociology, and geology in a way that is engaging and thought provoking. This is not a stuffy science-y text book. It is instead a series of short stories, elegantly told and woven into a fabric.
The book starts with a bang. Chapter 1 is called “Volcanic Tuff” and it tells the story of the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius as reported by Pliny the Younger recording for posterity what his uncle, Pliny the Elder, saw and did during the eruption.
Later chapters explore native copper in which Prothero tells the story of Otzi the Ice Man, a fossilized hiker found in 1991 in the Austrian Alps. Otzi was carrying a copper bladed ax which dated him to the Copper Age. Tracing the evolution of human ingenuity from the Stone Age through today, Prothero describes early copper mining in Cyprus and the connection to copper formation and the mid-Atlantic ridge. Each chapter tells another level in the discovery of how the rocks reveal the story of the earth’s history.
This was an absolutely fabulous read – gripping in a way that non-fiction rarely is to me.