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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Junior Education Center teaches all ages about gems and minerals

Lindsey Johnson

Benjamin McNabnay shows off his rocks and minerals at the Junior Education Center at the Gem & Mineral Show in Tucson, on Feb. 10. McNabnay is studying geosciences at the University of Arizona.

The Junior Education Center provided an interactive, education-packed corner of fun and learning for all ages at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show from Feb. 9-12. 

The center was located at the Tucson Convention Center and was run by the Society of Earth Science Students club; all are students at the University of Arizona. The club has been hosting the center for so long that Matthew Singer, president of the club, can’t remember when they started. 

“It’s cool to give kids a background in geology,” Singer said. “It might not be as interesting for the kids to go buy stuff with their parents, so why not learn stuff and get free minerals and free shark teeth.” 

The center offered activities from interacting with rocks and minerals to learning about a physics model. 

The club provided hands-on experience.  Benjamin McNabnay, a geosciences student, described the importance of having a section available for people of all ages to enjoy. 

“It’s very important for the Gem and Mineral Show because many families come here just as an activity for the whole family,” McNabnay said. “We are trying to capture the children who are on that trip who can’t really do anything downstairs, because they don’t really know what any of the minerals are and no one is going to take the time to tell them.”

McNabnay loved teaching others about the show’s oddities. 

“I did not have this kind of thing growing up,” McNabnay said, “but I’ve made it my effort to do as many of these as possible.” 

Dana Assudmi volunteers at the Junior Education Center at the Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson, on Feb. 10. The Center is hosted by the Society of Earth Science Students Club.
Dana Assudmi volunteers at the Junior Education Center at the Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson, on Feb. 10. The Center is hosted by the Society of Earth Science Students Club.

The students involved in the club hope that the Junior Education Center will influence more kids to take an interest in science and geology. McNabnay wanted the kids at the show to interact at their table.

“I spent many hours down by the creek searching out super cool rocks and my dad would do the best to answer all my questions, but sometimes he didn’t know,” McNabnay said.

Now that McNabnay has studied geoscience, he can answer all his own questions and the questions of visitors at the show. 

“We can tell people what exactly every mineral in this case is and they can feel it and interact with it. That’s important and hopefully, it can get them interested in geology,” he said. 

Shannon Maloney, a geosciences student, wanted to show kids that what they see at the show is what makes the world around them. 

“This is a good simplified version,” Maloney said. “It’s super interactive and they can go home and see it in their backyard, or on their way to school or in the playground.”

A middle school teacher inspired Maloney to study science. She said, “Keeping kids interested in what is around them in a good way is so important to help them get interested in science and continue with that in the future.”

*Lindsey Johnson is a student studying at the University of Arizona School of Journalism taking the JOUR 306: Advanced Reporting class.

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