Karen Lottes, the Gaithersburg Community Museum’s program coordinator, is excited about the next installment of Discovery Days, a “series designed to stir the imagination and foster family involvement in a fun and stimulating environment.” On Saturday, Jan. 5, when “Rocks, Minerals and Fossils” will be the theme, representatives of three organizations — the Calvert Marine Museum, the Gem, Lapidary and Mineral Society of Montgomery County (GLMSMC) and the U.S. Geological Survey — will be on hand to illuminate the subject for visitors, age 4 and older.
“The Discovery Days series started in 2014 after I was hired,” Lottes recalled. “The museum had been hosting Train Days three to four times a year, and we just expanded the scope. (Now) we host 10 to 12 Discovery Days per year on a variety of themes, topics or hobbies.” Future sessions this winter will be “Coins & Stamps” on Feb. 9, and “Model Building” on March 10.
“We held this (particular) program two years ago and had a lot of requests to do it again,” she added. “The configuration is a little different from last time, but it should be a lot of fun.” In 2016, Lottes said she “did the fossil part,” but is “delighted that the Calvert Marine Museum will be doing that this year.”
Stephen Godfrey, curator of paleontology at the Solomons, Maryland-based museum that was recently designated as the Maryland State Center for Paleontology Collections and Research, said “we will be exhibiting fossils from along Calvert Cliffs and answering questions related to geology and paleontology.”
Godfrey, who said he is “so blessed” to have worked at the museum for 20 years, regularly does “outreach and public programs, showing local fossils and demystifying the procedures and practices of paleontology.” While the museum’s mission, he said, is to “interpret the local prehistory, maritime history and natural history of the Solomons area and the Chesapeake Bay,” his particular “mandate is to collect, preserve and interpret the local fossil resource – that is, Miocene epoch fossils from along Calvert Cliffs, eight to 18 million years old.”
The program is directed at the general public. “We love showing nifty fossil to people and watching them get excited about what they are looking at,” he said.
Lottes also belongs to the GLMSMC, an all-volunteer organization of about 100 members that also took part in the 2016 event. The group’s “purpose is to increase knowledge and popular interest in the earth sciences including geology, mineralogy, paleontology (fossils), lapidary arts and related subjects,” she said. “Members represent a broad cross section of adults, juniors and families with all levels of expertise. Sharing this common interest, they enjoy the fun of collecting, studying, identifying, displaying, cutting, polishing, faceting and learning.”
On Discovery Day, three adult members of GLMSMC and two members of its youth program, the Future Rockhounds of America, will bring along “a minerals in your life hands-on display” in which visitors will be able to see and touch “plenty of rocks and minerals.”
In addition, GLMSMC will create the “especially popular” fluorescent room. “As you probably know, fluorescent rocks and minerals glow under long-wave and short-wave light,” Lottes said. “There will be a display in the caboose that we darken so we can show the kids what they look like. It’s quite magical. Often, these rocks are pretty drab, but then you put the light on them and – wow!
The U.S. Geological Survey, which provides reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth, will have a soil core activity at which children will look through a microscope to identify the different minerals in it, Lottes explained.
In addition, the museum, located in the restored 1884 B&O Railroad Station complex, will offer something brand-new: Paint a Pet Rock. “Kids are always interested in all the rocks we have around the rail cars and near the railroad tracks,” Lottes said, “We thought having them pick one out and painting it would be fun.”
Discovery Day, on the topic “Rocks, Minerals & Fossils,” will be held Saturday, Jan. 5, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Gaithersburg Community Museum, 9 South Summit Ave., Olde Towne Gaithersburg. To register for the free-admission program, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/discovery-day-rocks-minerals-fossils-tickets-52914915938; for information, visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov.