Doing a Minerals and
Theme and Purpose
Many products used in everyday life had their beginnings as rocks and
minerals, produced from the Earth. The purpose is to show how minerals
are used in familiar products. For instance, the mineral talc is the
main ingredient in baby and body powders, while the metal copper is
used to make electrical wire and brass fixtures.
Up to 10 mineral specimens and the products made from or containing
those minerals will be needed. When requested in writing, mining companies
usually provide samples of the mineral they produce. Mining associations
and companies can be found by searching the Internet by mineral name
(salt, zinc, lead) or consulting a directory such as Randol's mining
directory. Products can be purchased at the local convenience store.
Display the mineral specimens so that students can handle them. After
discussing the minerals' properties and uses, ask the students to match
each mineral with the corresponding product.
Sample Cart Talk
The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History has a "Discovery
Cart" program where rolling carts are placed throughout the museum.
These carts contain specimens of rocks, minerals or fossils, depending
on the specific point being demonstrated.
One such demonstration is called "Dr. Rocks." Since many
minerals are used in familiar health care products like toothpaste (fluorite)
and table salt (halite), this topic provides a connection among students,
their health care habits (brushing teeth), and minerals from the Earth.
While talking about the minerals - what they are and how they are used
in health care products - let the students touch and observe the minerals.
Place no more than 4 or 5 fist-sized mineral specimens out for the kids
to handle, chosen from the list at the bottom of this page. For instance,
place a sizable piece of talc on the table and let students scratch
it, which creates a powdery residue on the fingers, since it is nature's
softest mineral. Once they've handled all the minerals and listened
to your discussion, then bring out the products and have the students
try to match the mineral with the appropriate product.
Most of the demonstration should take no more than about three to five
minutes. If there are several students in the class or museum, the demonstration
can be extended beyond health care products. If you have a sample of
graphite, then ask the question "What's in a pencil" while
marking on a piece of paper with a pencil. Most people believe lead
is in pencil, so ask them to try to write on paper with lead (galena),
which is difficult to do. Then bring out the graphite sample and watch
the excitement as they write their name with a rock.
|Sphalerite (Zinc mineral)
||Calamine lotion, Zinc oxide
||Soothes skin's irritation
|Galena (Lead mineral)
||Dense nature blocks radiation
||Required by the body
||Photo of dental filling