Each year in November, the Houston Gem and Mineral Society hosts a 3-day event showcasing stones, minerals, jewelry, fossils, as well as geological fields and artistry.
This year, our family had the pleasure of going twice. On Friday as part of an organized field trip to their “School Daze” and again on Saturday with our Webelos Patrol so the boys could earn their “Geologist Activity Badge”.
I coordinated the event on Friday. As I had never been to the show before, it was quite the learning experience for me. There are a few things I would do differently, but overall ~ we had an excellent time.
The show is held at the Humble Civic Center, which is on Will Clayton Parkway just East of 59N outside Beltway 8. Homeschool groups must register in advance for 1/2 hour time slots in the afternoon. (Public & Private schools are assigned the morning slots.) I contacted the Field Trip coordinator for HGMS in August and secured the 1pm time spot. Two weeks in advance I provided her with the grade level of each student attending. While homeschoolers are allowed to bring younger children, the event is designed for students age 5+.
The show put a great deal of work into designing “Scavenger Hunts” for various grade-levels. K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, & 8+ each have separate, age-appropriate pages with questions that can be answered at various booths & presentations throughout the show. Each level is color-coded and has their own “course ” through the show. Maps are provided. Booths that are answering questions have colored balloons corresponding as well.
While this is perfect for a school group with ten 4th graders, we had 14 students spanning nearly every grade level. At first, we tried to stay together as one single group. We quickly found that it was often too many people to hear well and that everyone preferred to travel at their own pace. So, we broke off and followed our own paths. The show is open to families choosing whichever “level” they wish. We chose to combine and work on a single-level together.
At the end, we turned in our sheets and were given a free gem or mineral. Both our children chose quartz.
We returned on Saturday with the Webelos. The Scouts were free, the only charge was for the adults attending. Adults
were even allowed to utilize the $1 off coupon posted on the HGMS website. I was incredibly impressed at how much effort volunteers had put in to the presentations. As long as the Scout followed the sheet they were given they would leave earning their “Geologist Activity Badge”. Unfortunately, some people who had volunteered did not show up. However, the coordinators stepped in and managed beautifully.
The boys were treated to several interactive experiences discussing identification of minerals, rock cycle, water cycle, and volcanic activity. We then traveled to various exhibitors to learn answers to questions about fossils and Geological careers. Each boy went home with a bag full of at least 5 minerals to complete the requirements for a collection.
Recommended ages: For Friday’s School day they ask that registered students be 5 years or older. Younger siblings were allowed, but families will find that the layout and activities are not designed for pre-schoolers. Families pushing strollers might find it difficult to navigate. While aisles were wide, it was quite crowded on both days. For Scouts ~ it’s obviously for those who are actually Scouts. Other Packs/Troops brought siblings but the event was booked to capacity and it was quite difficult to squeeze everyone in with the unexpected attendees.
Anything we wish was different? Both days were really well planned and organizers provided a significant amount of materials including maps. The only change I’d make is to the HGMS website. It utilizes panes and no matter what you click on ~ the web address stays the same. This makes it impossible to share directly links to pertinent information and forces users to click around repeatedly every time they visit the site. Which leads to difficulties with…
How do I set up a trip? For reasons explained above, I can’t give you direct links. Click on the “Annual Show” button, then scroll down and there’s a “Kids Day” link, the first link on that page will be “School Daze Earth Science Information”. This page provides individual links for Public & Private Schools, Homeschools, or Scouts to register. The coordinator for School Daze is different than for Scouts. I found them both to be incredibly helpful. I would recommend signing up for both at the beginning of September as spots fill up quickly in both programs. School Daze Program is free. On Saturday Scouts are free and Adult chaperones are $7 (a coupon for $1/off can be printed from the site).
A note about parking. Parking is free at the Humble Civic Center. On Friday, the West lot is reserved for Bus loading/unloading. It was requested we park in the East lot. This worked well as check-in and the scavenger hunt begin at the West Entrance and end at the East Entrance. On Saturday, everyone enters through the main doors on the South side of the building. Again, activities began on the West side of the venue and ended on the East.
What else is there to do nearby? This was quite enough adventure for our family for one day. Other places in Humble to visit include KSBJ Studios and WaterWorks Education Center. Both of these tours are free, but do require advanced registration.