The Survey is committed to providing educational resources to the public in order to share our love of geology and educate future scientists. We also invite groups and individuals to our library for activities, and occasionally travel to schools, camps, and public events.
Excavating a fossil fish with the help of a real geologist.
Explore the past and present with our large map collection.
See and touch fossils large and small.
Learn the difference between mammoths and mastodons, and what life was like when they lived in Washington.
Learn how to identify various types of critters.
A wide variety of people visit the Washington Geology Library at the Department of Natural Resources, ranging from professional geologists to amateur rockhounds. Young children, college students, retirees; there is something for every age group at our library.
Over the last few years, we’ve had more children’s groups visiting (such as home-schooled children and summer camp programs). In turn, we’ve been inspired to provide more educational resources. We love to encourage budding scientists! Of course we have a variety of Washington rocks and fossils on display, but we’ve also added a rock testing area and a dark room to view phosphorescent (glow-in-the-dark) rocks and minerals.
On display in our library are many historic field tools and geophysical measurement instruments. Come check out our seismometer to learn about how earthquakes are recorded. There's also a jar of ash from the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens!
Geode with phosphorescent minerals
Augmented Reality Sandbox
The newest addition to our education corner is an augmented reality sandbox (ARS). A projector connected to a computer projects contour lines onto the sand, creating a live topographic map that changes as the sand is rearranged. The projector also senses the elevation of the sand and projects colors onto the topographic map. Kids and adults alike are mesmerized for hours by this display.
The ARS was developed by Peter Gold at UC Davis and the design and coding has been made available to the public under a GNU General Public License (https://arsandbox.ucdavis.edu/). This means you can build your own ARS, as many universities and institutions have done.
The ARS is a powerful and engaging educational tool because it visually demonstrates a number of geologic processes in a fun hands-on way. A wave of your hand creates digital rain over the sandbox. The water follows the contours of canyons, pools into lakes, and sloshes up against shores.
You can view a short video of our sandbox on Youtube:
Hands on Activities
Would you like to try your hand at identifying rocks? View fossils of animals and vertebrates that lived in times past? Come to our library to see and touch our samples. You can learn about past environments when these rocks and fossils were formed.
Testing to discover why these rocks look alike but are very different.
Visiting the Survey
Would you like to visit the library to view our geological displays, try out the sandbox, or take part in educational activities? Many of our activities are not set up on a permanent basis due to space constraints. To make sure you get the most out of your visit please contact our librarian to make an appointment:
Stephanie Earls: firstname.lastname@example.org
The library is open from 8:00 am–4:30 pm, Monday through Thursday. It is closed on state holidays. Hours are subject to change due to availability.
Natural Resources Building
1111 Washington St SE
Olympia, WA 98501
Request A Geologist Speaker
The Survey frequently receives requests for speakers at rock clubs, mineral shows, public fairs, and schools. Speakers can provide talks about broad topics such as volcanoes, or finding gold in Washington. They can also offer shorter, more focused lessons such as rock identification. Many schools and camps are also interested in career information—how do you become a geologist, what kind of schooling and training do you need, what kinds of geology jobs are there?
- Request A Speaker
- Volunteer To Be A Speaker
Would you like to request a speaker for your meeting, group, or school classroom? Please e-mail Ashley Cabibbo (email@example.com), our outreach coordinator. Include as much of the following information as possible:
4) I am a: member of a geological group, teacher, interested member of the public, other
5) Date of event: or (my dates are flexible)
8) How many people in attendance and age ranges
9) Technology available at venue: (internet, projector)
10) Topic: Be as specific as possible. This helps us match up the right geologist with your group. Instead of just “Volcanoes”, let us know exactly what your group is interested in. For example, do you want a talk on how the Cascade volcanoes formed and the geologic history of the area? Do you want to know what volcanic hazards exist in this area, and what to do in the event of an eruption? Do you want general knowledge on how Cascade stratovolcanoes compare to shield and composite type volcanoes around the world? The possibilities are endless, please tell us exactly what you have in mind and we can come up with a talk for your group.
NOTE: Submitting this information is not a guarantee that a geologist will be available for your group. We will do our best to find a speaker who meets your needs, but a geologist may not always be available for your desired day and time.
Are you interested in speaking to a group about geology? The time commitment is usually about one hour but can be longer if you have more time to spare. Groups may request speakers on weekdays, weeknights, and occasionally weekends.
The Survey is working on a set of stock lessons and presentations for these requests. This way if you don’t have time to put something together, you can use one of our kits for your presentation. The groups requesting speakers are usually not picky and are thrilled just to have a geologist talk with them.
If you would like to be on our list of volunteers willing to speak, please send an e-mail to our outreach coordinator, Ashley Cabibbo (firstname.lastname@example.org). In your e-mail please include:
2) Area willing to cover/travel to
3) Preference in audience age: Grade school, College, General Public, Scientists:
4) Topics you are most familiar with and willing to present on: This can be a general list. For example, I am a retired engineer and would really like to talk about faults.
- Lesson Plans
- Lab Activities
- Museum Boxes
- Museums and Science Centers
- WGS Education Kits
- More Resources
Many geology lesson plans exist on the web. Here are a few from the U. S. Geological Survey.
A series of activities to promote high-quality undergraduate geoscience education, funded by the National Science Foundation. Browse the collection of exemplary teaching activities here.
Activities specifically related to Washington geology are highlighted below.
Some museums and cultural centers now rent out educational boxes and learning kits. These can range in topic and are usually available for a few weeks. Contact your local museum for more information.
Almost every corner of Washington State has educational opportunities through museums and science centers. Here are a few:
The WGS is working on putting together themed boxes on various geologic topics. These are examples of what types of lessons we can bring to you or you can come in and explore.
Here is an example of "The Official State Fossil and Gem of Washington Activity Box" featuring petrified wood, mammoths, and mastodons.
More coming soon!
Booklets and brochures:
Some other cool educational resources:
Other speakers and field trips:
2 Minute Geology with Nick Zentner on Youtube: