Earth Science Week Classroom Activities

Sources of Minerals

Activity Source:

Mineralogical Society of America. Adapted with permission.

We are surrounded by objects that we depend upon for our everyday lives. From our clothes to our phones, bikes, cars, showers, plates, chairs, televisions, computers, and nearly everything else, we rely on objects made of a variety of materials. But where do those materials come from in the first place, and what happens when we run out of them?

In this investigation, you will choose some everyday objects and trace their materials to their sources. Then you will think about the supply of these materials, and what humans need to do to continue that supply while protecting the environment. You are thinking of how sustainable the supply is.


  • Pen and paper
  • Computer with internet access


  1. “Take a tour” around a room in your home or school. Make a list of as many different objects (products) in the room as you can.
  2. Choose six different objects to research. On a clean sheet of paper, make a table for your objects with these columns: Name of Object; Object’s Materials; Source of Materials; How Sustainable Is the Source of the Material.
  3. Sort your six objects into groups based on their materials. For example, soft-cover books are made of paper, so “Paper” could be one of your groups. A soup pot can be made of copper metal, so “Metal” could be another group. Objects made of more than one material can be put into more than one group.
  4. If you aren’t sure what an object is made from, research it. Start at the Min4Kids website:
  5. Your next task is to find out where your objects’ materials come from. For example, what is the source of paper? Where do we get copper? How about plastic?
  6. Next, you will be thinking about how sustainable the supply of materials is. For each material, find out: Is the material mined from Earth or is it grown? If it is mined, what parts of the world produce the material? What minerals make up the material? If it is grown, do the plants grow quickly, or do they take a long time?
  7. Discuss: Which of your objects is made from easily found and replaceable materials? Which are made from materials that are harder to get or rarer? Based on this information, make a claim about which products are most sustainable. What ideas do you have about making the supply of materials more sustainable?
  8. Other factors also need to be considered when determining if a product is sustainable, such as how much energy or water is used during its production. Conduct research to see which products require the most energy usage or water usage and add this to your claim about which products are most sustainable. Did your answers change? What other factors might you consider when determining sustainability?

NGSS Connections

  • CCC: Cause and Effect, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change
  • SEP: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • DCI: Earth’s Materials and Systems, Natural Resources

SDG Connections

  • 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities
  • 12: responsible Consumption & Production