During his sabbatical last quarter, geology professor Pat Pringle went rock hunting. On a mission to acquire large rocks with interesting geological features to add to the KNOLL, Pringle found what he was looking for at Rock Mountain Products in Redmond, WA. Successful, he came back to campus with an entire truckload of rock slabs and giant boulders which, with the help of numerous campus volunteers, were strategically and aesthetically placed in the Kaiser Natural Outdoor Learning Lab (KNOLL).
Chosen for their beauty and interesting features, the recently added giant rocks also contain geological secrets that will fill in some of the missing elements of the “rock cycle”. Slabs of Montana bluestone feature evidence of preserved ancient mudcracks, while the dark, ledgelike Iron Mountain rocks display ancient ripple marks from currents. Beautiful greenish and reddish rocks of the Belt group, slightly north of the pedestrian bridge over China Creek, are some of the oldest types of sedimentary rock found in the Northwest. Along with several beautiful boulders of granite, the new collection also features samples of metamorphic migmatite rocks that demonstrate the “birth of granite.” Other specialty rocks include a Columbia River basalt column, quartzite, and rocks with load structures that display bulbous-shapes and depressions. Pringle admits that he chose these particular stones because they contained “cool things that demonstrate a geologic phenomenon.”
The fascinating geological features were not the only reason Pringle selected these particular rocks. With an appeal of nature to the eye, he also purposefully chose a few large ledge shapes that would provide comfortable outdoor seating.
Strategically located throughout the KNOLL, the rocks were placed to reflect either a geographic reference or geologic feature. Pringle, who helped plan the layout with the assistance of Sean Mayfield and Emily Harvey, notes that rocks found from the northeast corner of Washington are intentionally located in the northeast corner of the KNOLL, and the slab featuring water ripple marks is perfectly positioned across from the fountain in Washington Hall.
Taking a stroll through the small park, students and visitors can now sit and relax on several natural stone benches and seats where they can read a book or “read the rocks” thanks to Professor Pringle and his crew.