Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spring Break Rocks!

While it really does feel nice to take a break from the drama of 4th grade, I am talking about ACTUAL rocks. The kind that Nevada specializes in! It's Mineral World here in the great empty.

I was invited by a co-worker to attend the Nevada Mineral Association's teacher classes this week. On Tuesday we attended classes that were oriented to our grade levels, and on Wednesday we WENT ON A FIELD TRIP!!

The classes I went to included learning all about the impact, economically, on the state of Nevada of the mining industry. As we listened to the variety of jobs, and what some of the earnings were, many of us looked at each other, and decided maybe we were in the wrong career! Maybe we ought to move to Elko and drive an ore truck. It pays a lot more than we get as teachers, and the aggravation level looked much lower.

I also learned about identifying minerals. This was something I taught years ago in Maryland, and we had little boxes of rocks with which we learned about the streak, and the hardness, and the ph composition. This was similar, and we all received two boxes of rocks to take back to our classrooms. One is minerals, and we practiced identifying them. Another box contains rocks...yes they are different. The rocks are composites of different kinds of minerals (some) and other rocks are examples of the three types of rocks: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. We also have lesson ideas of how to use them in our classrooms. So much fun!

But the real fun was Wednesday when we picked up our box lunches, and our backpack of PPE (personal protective equipment) and boarded a tour bus for our field trips. I chose option #1 because it took me to the mountains near our home. We first went to the gypsum mine that is out in the desert behind the mountain to the east of our house. When we got there, we got out of the bus, dressed in our reflective vests, hard hats, and safety glasses, and walked over to the edge of the parking lot/factory yard.

We were now overlooking a dug out piece of desert, that looks just like all the land around here. But as you look carefully at the "dirt" around you, you realize that it is glittering. We were on the edge of the gypsum mine. It is essentially an open-pit (but not deep like you might have seen at Bingham Copper Mine in Utah.) There is a long, long conveyor belt that is in the middle of it, and that leads to the factory about 200 yards behind where we were standing. As we all lined up near the edge of the pit, the guide from the factory pointed out a section of the desert we were observing, and asked us to watch closely while they prepared the explosion. Then, the "master-blaster" was introduced, and he communicated with someone else, and right in front of us, explosions went off, a two second delay later we heard the noise. We watched as a vast section of ground was puffed into a huge dust ball, and then settled back down into rubble. It was COOL!! (and now many of us want to do that job, just for name...)

After the explosion and dust settled, scooper tractors got started loading the rock debris onto the conveyor belt, where it rolled on into the building where it would get washed and cooked until all that was left was pure gypsum ready to be mixed into batches with the other stuff that they put in the middle of wall board.

We walked for almost a mile as we followed our guide through the sheet rock/wall board factory. They have the longest conveyor belts I've ever seen! It was like being inside one of those old black and white movies I used to see in Jr. High, with the narrator explaining the factory workers' jobs as the camera took us through the manufacturing plant. It was really, really interesting! 

The most hilarious part of our tour was right at the beginning. There are huge rolls of brown paper that are fed into a conveyor that end up being one side of the sheet rock. We were watching a roll as it was gradually going up a slope into the apparatus, as our guide was pointing out the process, when we all noticed that one edge of the paper was torn (about six inches) with a fold-over in a right angle. Then, another section came up the slope that way, too, and as he turned to see what we were looking at, our tour guide suddenly shouted, "OH, S#!$!!" and took off running. He was yelling a guy's name, and then we saw another fellow running up some stairs and rushing to do something to that paper. We teachers all turned to each other and burst out laughing! After our guide returned, he apologized for his rushing off and blurting out, but we assured him that it was one of the best parts of our tour!

After we walked our legs off at the sheet rock factory/gypsum mine, we ate our lunches in the bus as we drove to a near-by geologic formation where lots of people went hill-climbing and rock hunting. I pretty much sat at the bottom of the mountain and looked at rocks there. My feet might have made it up the mountain, but then I'd have just had to stay there. Going back down wouldn't have been possible.

Let me just say that it was two days well-spent, and next Spring Break, I plan to sign up again! The Nevada Mining Association has my vote for best Spring Break outing ever---it totally rocked!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

If You Come Home During Daylight...

...You'll notice how much the kitchen rug needs washed...
...When you pick it up, you'll see that the floor under it should be scrubbed...
...As you're down there, wiping up the last bits of water from the tiles...
...You'll notice that the cupboard doors haven't been cleaned for quite a while...
...Then you'll realize that the oven door is dirty, too...
...As you stand up with the cleaner in your hand...
...You realize that the windows in the patio doors look awful in the late afternoon light...
...And you decide to stay at school grading papers until dark tomorrow. And bring a lot of cookies, too.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Right Place, Right Time

 I went to the library tonight and ended up having a completely unrelated opportunity to help some poor, distraught mom. I'd planned on going to a different branch, but "circumstances" had me end up at my own local branch. (Cue the sappy music for the "It was no coincidence that you were there..." video.)

Whenever we do the research reports in my class about birds, I always go to the library several miles away and check out a big bunch of books. That way, if a student wants to go to our local branch, and check out a book about the bird they've been assigned, then there will probably be one available. I got an email yesterday informing me that I had three days left until I needed to return the books. However, when I logged into the library website, I was informed that my card had expired a few days earlier, and I would have to come in person to the library to revive my privileges. Sigh. What lousy timing. So, I made a plan to go to the store after I finished at school today, and then drop into a branch that was just a few blocks from the market.

However, when I got finished at the market, I totally forgot that I was supposed to go to the library, and drove home. CoolGuy was in the garage messing about, and asked if I'd been to the library yet. DOH! I couldn't believe I'd forgotten! If I hurried, I'd make it to the library before they closed (8:00 P.M.) I drove down to our nearby branch, and walked in. Five minutes later, I was re-upped, renewed and out the door. Great! I was going to head for home, and cook some dinner, and hit the hay. Except, I looked over at the people clustered around a mini-van that I'd noticed when I walked in to the library.

I had seen them earlier, and thought it was a family standing there beside the car, talking or something. But when I looked again, it was the security guard from the library, another gentleman, and a lady dressed in a head scarf, and a modest outfit that covered her arms and legs. She was maybe Egyptian, or Iranian, I'm not sure. Her three children, 11, 9 and 6 were sitting dejectedly on the center ledge of the parking area. The two men were trying to get her car unlocked with a coat hanger. But, they'd been trying unsuccessfully for about 20 minutes.

I asked if they were having any luck, So, I said, "Well, I have TripleA and they will come at no charge and help." I then found out her one year old baby was fastened inside in the car seat, and while she had been struggling to get her stroller to fold up at the rear of the car, her other children had gotten back out, and come around to see why mom was taking so long. They shut the doors, and it locked. Her keys were on the seat. Double DOH! Mom was looking pretty frazzled by the time I went over to see if I could help.

So, I called AAA, and told them about the child in the car seat, and they put a rush on it. But, still, it looked like it would be 20-30 minutes! Right at the 20 minute point, while the two guys kept trying and trying, the help came! In the meantime, the 6 year old was doing a little dance to not wet her pants, so I saw that the other security guard was still in the door of the now-closed library, and he was very willing to let the three kids in to go potty. By the time they returned, the helper guy showed up, and, within one minute (seriously--the right tools make all the difference!) got her door unlocked.

She lifted the little guy out of his car seat and gave him a hug. By then, I was over with the AAA guy, signing the papers, and she thought I'd gone away. But when I walked over to say "Bye," she clasped my hands, and just hugged me to her, saying, "Thank you, thank you." I replied, "God bless you, and I hope you can get home safely, now." She looked pretty exhausted. Just then, the 6 year old started screaming...big sister had shut her fingers in the car door. I just walked over to my car, and left. Good grief. Poor woman.

At least I'd been inspired to go to that library just then.  (Does God sometimes prompt us to help by getting us to forget one errand, so that it must be accomplished in another place, at just the right time, so we can be of assistance to someone in need?)