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Rock hounds

Club gets kick out of agate and quartz

Created date

February 22nd, 2010

[caption id="attachment_8355" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Members of the Cedar Crest Rock and Gem society pose in front of a boulder on campus. (Submitted photo)"][/caption] Members of one of the most popular clubs at Cedar Crest spend much of their time looking at the ground and staring at rocks. That s what we do, says Jim Johnson, founder of the Cedar Crest Rock and Gem Society (CC RAGS). But really, our club is about anything related to the science of rocks. We talk about geology topics and bring in rocks and minerals and try to figure out what they are. But by no means is this a stony group, Johnson says of the 40-member club. There s a lot of laughing, and we re having fun along the way.

Curriculum du jour

We are flexible, Johnson says about the topics of discussion. But I like to tie what we re doing into what s going on around the world and what s nearby. We ve talked agate and quartz minerals. We ve looked at maps of New Jersey and looked for lava flows and discussed how ancient glaciers made all the lakes around here. We ve even taken some field trips to some local mines and the Franklin Mineral Museum. The club also discusseda recent minor earthquake that registered just over 2 on the Richter scale. We looked at where it came from, why it happened. This is what rock hounds do, Johnson says. There is no experience necessary, no educational background necessary, you just need the will and desire to do it and figure out what you are looking at.

Coral corralled her

Member Ginny Myers says she had always been interested in rocks and didn t have any formal geology training. But an artifact from years ago was what originally piqued her interest in rocks. She had lived in Southeast Asia for over ten years including India, Singapore, and Malaysia. Her husband was a salesman for an American chemical company abroad. He bought me a bunch of beautiful pieces of jewelry over there, and one was of a fossil of coral, she says. I was always amazed at just how old it was and how it was formed all those years ago. That stone started my interest. But it wasn t until I moved toCedar Crestthat I had a chance to really pursue this hobby more. She didn t know the club existed until she and her husband met Johnson and his wife at dinner. It was a great evening, she says of the meeting. He was so interesting that I figured I d give the club a try.

A growing group

Johnson, a former businessman for oil and environmental companies, never had any formal science training either. It was curiosity that got him hooked on rocks. I took a few geology courses while going to Lehigh, but really, all of this was learned from the school of hard knocks. It was something I was curious about and wanted to pursue. To feed that curiosity, I started hiking about 40 years ago. Then I started reading books and textbooks about it and picked up neat little rock facts here and there. So this group really just grew organically out of my curiosity. That s what s great about the group, Myers says. Everyone is a part. Jim really makes the class interesting. He s delightful and everyone enjoys hearing him talk. He answers all our questions, helps us identify any rocks we might bring in, and just really encourages us to go out and study and observe on our own. I think the club is one of the best and easily the most popular on campus. You have to get there early to get a seat. Johnson is glad people are paying attention to their surroundings. I think it helps open your eyes to the environment around you, he says. You begin to notice some of the other beauty in nature. I m not sure how you can drive around, or take a walk and see mountains, a hill, or a lake, and not wonder where it came from or how it got there.