RAYMOND | Venora Akin was struggling to control of an armful of rocks, as a few tumbled loose near her feet.
The 6-year-old Cedar Rapids girl was among collectors of all ages who were picking up rocks, minerals and even a few fossils during the 16th annual Sunday at the Quarry event at BMC Aggregate's facility east of Raymond.
Alexia Akin, noting the family already had bags of rocks back at the car, questioned how her daughter thought she'd get home with her latest finds from the quarry face.
"It's the pumpkin rule," she said. "If you can't carry it yourself, it's too big."
Nine-year-old Quinlan Akin, Venora's brother, came running over with a small dark rock he'd found.
"The guy over there in the orange vest thinks this is darker because it has iron in it," he exclaimed.
Lee Potter, a University of Northern Iowa instructor, was the guy in the orange vest. He was one of many experts on hand to put an educational spin on what otherwise is designed to be a fun family day outdoors during Earth Sciences Week.
Karl Dietl, an earth sciences education major at UNI, showed up with a group of classmates.
"We were hoping to find a few fossils, but there aren't too many in this formation," Dietl said. "I really came because I'm interested to see how they do things, especially with the kids."
Entertaining and educating kids was the rule of the day, as youngsters wearing hard hats pounded away with rock hammers for a chance to find crystals or fossils.
Others poured water into a miniature model the Iowa Flood Center set up to show how retention areas, levees and other practices can affect flooding during heavy rains. Without such measures, plastic houses floated away.
Many of the booths and activities at this year's event, themed "Managing Our Natural Resources,” focused on issues related to watersheds, riverside resources, flooding concerns and conservation efforts.
"That's become an increasingly important aspect of the earth sciences," said Sherman Lundy, a geologist and project developer for BMC Aggregates. "Obviously we have to deal with everything from this (soil) hypoxia scenario, reducing the nitrates, keeping soil in place as well as the flooding issues.
"It's really not just about conservation as an aesthetic anymore," he added. "It's about conservation as a practical way to address those issues."
Representatives from the city of Waterloo's storm water management program and the Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation program were on hand with information about ways to prevent runoff and protect local waterways from erosion and contamination.
Daniel Gilles, a water resources engineer with the Iowa Flood Center, showed off new electronic river level gauges and a "tipping bucket" rain gauge, which measures the intensity of a rainfall event instead of the amount of rain that falls.