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Geology Lesson Plan: Identifying Rocks and Minerals

By Keren Perles

Do your students find rocks and minerals boring? Well, they're not! This lesson is a great way to help spice up your science class.

Everyday Minerals

Explain to students that although minerals originally come from the ground, there are minerals in many of the everyday materials around their homes. As you prepare to use these rocks and minerals lesson plans, encourage students to take a mineral tour of their home, identifying minerals in the medicine cabinet, the kitchen, or other areas. You might want to suggest that they look at a stick of deodorant or a package of batteries as a starting point. Show them how to look in the ingredients section to see if they find any minerals they are familiar with, such as “calcium carbonate” or “magnesium phosphate.”

When they come into class, ask students which minerals they found. Make a list of minerals on the board, as well as the materials that they were in, and discuss your findings. Are some minerals used often in many everyday materials? Are some noticeably absent from the list? Which types of materials seem to be most likely to contain minerals? This activity can help students understand how minerals relate to their daily lives.

How to Tell What's What

Explain to students that just looking at a rock or mineral cannot necessarily help you identify what it is. Instead, scientists use several tests to identify a mineral. For example, they might test whether the mineral is magnetic, which can narrow down their options. They might shine an ultraviolet light on it to see whether it is fluorescent (you can demonstrate this to the class). You can show the class how different minerals leave different color markings when they are scratched on white, unglazed porcelain – and that the color markings are often different than the color of the mineral itself. You can also introduce them to Mohl’s hardness test by having them scratch pieces of metal, plastic, and wood (such as a pencil) against each other to see which leaves a mark, and therefore which is harder.

These rocks and minerals lesson plans are the perfect way use a more hands-on approach to teach about geology. You can also try teaching about the rock cycle to help students understand the three main types of rocks. Encourage students to find other ways that they use rocks and minerals in their lives.