Stillwater students mine for treasures


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  • Photos by Laurie Gordon Julia St. Clair, Ashley Rose Gordon and Marah Whitby talk animatedly about the trip as the bus takes them to the museum.




  • Florescent rocks.




  • Kids in the rock field searching for treasures.



Three third grade teachers at The Stillwater School have a knack for making things interesting — even rocks.

Janet Mahedy, Corrine Swakopf and Erica Then taught their students all about rocks and minerals in preparation for last week's class trip to The Franklin Mineral Museum where the children were mesmerized by fluorescent minerals. They even got to play geologist as they searched for rocks and minerals in the museum's 3.5-acre mine dump.

The tour guides took the three Stillwater classes through a mine replica that showed them what it was like back in the 1800s when the only light the miners had was a candle attached to their hats and dynamite blasts were scary and dangerous.

They showed the children the progression of mining to include lights, more sophisticated equipment, a bell system with an elevator to lift rocks and the addition of wood to bolster the tunnels.

The tour included the Local Room, the Indian Room, the Fossil Room and a mineral collection. The kids' favorite was the Fluorescent Room where a line of ordinary rocks began glowing as the guide turned off the lights and illuminated a black light.

Children then descended into the mine dump for a half hour to spelunk for rocks and shiny minerals. Over the past two years, three new mineral species have been discovered there.

Most of the kids attended with a parent/chaperone. Connie Costlow attended with her son, Troy. "The trip was a great time and opportunity to learn more about the history of mining but more importantly, it was an opportunity to spend time with my son and his friends," Costlow said. "The end of the year trips are very sentimental to me because you are able to see your child mature, develop friendships and flourish during the course of a year. I don't think I've ever seen an unhappy kid on our field trips."

Alex Yanaga accompanied his daughter, Sophia.

"We both agree that the rock hunt was the best part," he said.

Haley Foster loved the mine replica while her mother, Donna, thought the glowing rocks were amazing.

Dave Carter, who accompanied his step-daughter, Julia St. Clair on the trip said, "I really enjoyed looking at the fluorescent minerals."

As for St. Clair, "Well," she said, "I think it was eating lunch with my friends."

The museum is home to 4,000 mineral specimens and in 1968 the State of New Jersey passed a resolution declaring the Borough of Franklin "The Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World."

The museum sits a-top what was one of the United State's most important zinc mines. Zinc from Franklin was used to coat the original Brooklyn Bridge and though many think pennies are made of copper, that's just the coating. They're mostly zinc and lots of it, in the mine's hey day, came from Franklin.

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