Mineral Identification Lab (J.J. Newman)

Lesson Plan for 6th Grade Earth Science 
1 Block Period - 90 minutes 
Chapter 3: Minerals, section 2: Mineral Identification

Objectives: Students will be able to determine the mass and volume of a mineral sample with a balance and a graduated cylinder.  Students will be able to calculate the density of a mineral sample by dividing its mass by its volume.  Students will be able to measure and observe the following mineral properties: crystal form, luster, hardness, streak, and reaction to acid.  Students will be able to identify a mineral sample based on its properties using a provided key.

California Content Standards Addressed: 
6. Sources of energy and materials differ in amounts, distribution, usefulness, and the time required for their formation. As a basis for understanding this concept: b. Students know different natural energy and material resources, including air, soil, rocks, minerals, petroleum, fresh water, wildlife, and forests, and know how to classify them as renewable or nonrenewable. 
7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will: a. Develop a hypothesis. b. Select and use appropriate tools and technology (including calculators, computers, balances, spring scales, microscopes, and binoculars) to perform tests, collect data, and display data. e. Recognize whether evidence is consistent with a proposed explanation.


            1.     Pre-lab intro … prior knowledge questions [10 min]

            2.     Gizmo demonstration & Activity A [15 min]

            3.     Activity B: Observing and measuring mineral properties [20 min]

            4.     Identifying minerals using a key [20 min] <-- DEMONSTRATION IN SED 555

            5.     Practice with additional minerals [15 min]

            6.     Wrap-up [10 min]

Learning activities (numbers correlate with agenda):

1.     Students will complete the Mineral Identification lab (student worksheet attached below) on the website, Explore Learning. [www.explorelearning.com].

a.     As students enter the classroom, have them turn on their computers and go to www.explorelearning.com.  Have the website already loaded on the projector as well.

b.     Pass out lab worksheet to students and have them complete the Prior Knowledge questions by themselves.

c.     Review Prior Knowledge questions.  Students should be able to identify several of the property tests defined in yesterday’s lesson.  

2.     Activate the gizmo and run the students through a demonstration of measuring and observing Sample U (sulfur) and/or Sample Z (dolomite).  Then have students walk through Activity A together and skip the identification step for now (#6).

3.     Instruct students to carry on and complete number 1 of Activity B (observations and measurements).  Students who finish data collection early can carry out similar measurements (streak test, hardness test, density measurement) with physical samples of minerals at one station.

4.     As the last students are finishing data collections, regroup students at their computers and check over their data tables.  Tell students we will now be using the identification key and the data we gathered about the properties of these samples to identify them.

a.     Walk through Sample A from Activity A together

i.     Introduce the difference between subjective (influenced by opinion or interpretation) and objective (based on fact or measurement)

 ii.     Ask students to identify the more objective data in the table…which data are mostly based on facts or measurement (density, streak, acid) and which are mostly based on opinion or interpretation (crystal shape, color/luster)?  Hardness is somewhat imprecise in this simulation, but still primarily objective.  List these on the board. 

iii.     [Let students know that trained geologists can use all the properties in an objective way, but because we are looking at artist renderings of the samples on the computer, some of the properties are highly based on interpretation.]

iv.     Have students identify Sample A’s more objective facts and write them on the board– use these properties in the identification table to narrow the identification to quartz; use the more subjective facts to confirm your findings – demonstrate the physical search of the mineral identification key for students by tracing down the density column looking for 2.6 g/mL and then further narrowing the find with a hardness of at least 7 and finally confirming with no acid reaction, a colorless streak and approximate color, luster and crystal shape descriptions.

v.     Have students mimic your search of the table and then enter their chosen mineral identification into the gizmo for confirmation

b.     Have students complete number 2 of Activity B to identify the five minerals they previously gathered data for.  Circulate among the students to help those who are guessing incorrectly to instead apply the objective/subjective information they just learned to the identification key.

5.     To compensate for lag time as faster students finish, encourage those who are done with number 2 to try five more minerals (have extra Activity B pages available).  All students should also form their conclusion and answer the last question on the lab.

6.     Wrap-up by returning to the prior knowledge questions.  Show students the comparison between pyrite and gold.  Emphasize the fact that with just a few simple tests, we are able to distinguish between a very valuable mineral and a not so valuable mineral.


Resources needed

        1.     50 lab write-ups

        2.     50 copies of page 2 (activity B tables)

        3.     Samples of quartz (A), feldspar (B), gold? (C), calcite (D), mica (E), and halite (F) for real life observations

        4.     Streak plate, steel file, copper strip, balance scale, graduated cylinder of water, tongs

Norman Herr,
Sep 29, 2010, 8:38 PM
Norman Herr,
Sep 29, 2010, 8:38 PM