The rock set aimed at schools to discover the rocks of Ireland will be launched by Minister Eamon Ryan.

  1. The project is delivering 5,000 sets of six rocks and an explanatory booklet to every primary and secondary school in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  2. The project is a contribution by TCD to International Year of Planet Earth, designed to promote the contribution of geoscience with the general public.

  1. The project, in making students familiar with rocks, will encourage them to consider the role of geology in our physical environment and will stimulate them to consider science as a career.

  1. The project received support from the Griffith Geoscience Research Awards scheme. It was the culmination of a long term interest by Dr. Ian Sanders in outreach activity.

Venue: 6pm, Museum Building, Trinity College.

Contact: Ian Sanders (

Attendance: 90


Six Common Kinds of Rock from Ireland – Phase Two


Rock samples as a teaching resource for every school in Ireland



In 2005, changes to the Leaving Certificate examination syllabus in Geography highlighted a need for the provision of rock samples as a teaching resource. In the autumn of that year, the project Six Common Kinds of Rock from Ireland delivered packs of rock and explanatory booklets to about 850 secondary schools in the Republic of Ireland. Each pack contained multiple samples of sandstone, mudstone, limestone, basalt, granite and schist, each kind labelled with a distinguishing spot of coloured paint. I undertook this task with the help of students at the Geology Department in Trinity College. It involved the collection and processing of about 30,000 pieces of rock. A kind donation from Whelan’s Limestone Quarries Ltd. paid the bills, and delivery was assisted by staff of the Geography Support Service of the Department of Education who handed out the rock packs during their programme of ‘in service’ training.


It quickly became clear that primary teachers were hungry for sample packs like those given to secondary schools. So, in 2006 an ambitious second phase of the project began, with the goal now extended to reaching every school in Ireland, more than 5,000 schools in total, primary and secondary, in the North as well as the South. This goal has finally been achieved.


Initially, funding proved difficult to secure, making progress slow.  Moreover, the only effective way to ensure delivery was through the costly Post Office, since the system of ‘in service’ training for primary teachers was inappropriate for distributing thousands of heavy rock packs. Thankfully, in the summer of 2007 financial support came through a Griffith Award (funded by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources). The award was more than enough to pay the huge postage of nearly €30,000. It also permitted the printing of 15,000 copies of a new, full-colour and much expanded version of the original explanatory booklet. The new book was written with teachers at all levels in mind, whether they are teaching Leaving Certificate classes, or just talking about rocks to junior infants. The text and diagrams were edited by teachers with no science background, to ensure that ideas were explained in everyday language.  Over 4,200 rock sets and books were packed and dispatched towards the end of 2007, and copies of the new book were posted to secondary schools who had received rock packs in 2005. Additional packs and books remain available, and through January and February 2008 they have continued to be sent out nearly every day, at no charge, on request from teachers.


Achievement of the project’s goal happily coincides with the UN designated International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) 2008, whose logo has been adopted for the cover of the book. The aim of IYPE is to foster a global understanding of geology, and thus heighten an awareness of what we can, and what we cannot, do to the planet if we are to preserve it for future generations.  It is earnestly hoped that the Six Common Kinds of Rock from Ireland will inspire teachers and children alike to explore and understand the workings of the planet, especially today, in an era of fast depleting natural resources and an impending energy crisis.


The project would not have been possible without free access to materials, and for these warm thanks go to Colm Walsh of Walsh’s Granite Quarry, Ballyedmonduff, Co. Dublin, Gary Flaherty of Whitemountain Basalt Quarry, Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Eddie Power of Ormonde Brick Ltd, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, Alan French of Hill Street Quarries, Arigna, Co. Leitrim, and Luis Grijalva of Whelan’s Limestone Quarries, Fountain Cross, Ennis, Co. Clare. 


From its inception the project has enjoyed positive encouragement from the Geoscience Committee of the Royal Irish Academy.


Dr Ian Sanders

Geology Department                                                                                     

February 2008