Rock Cycle - Minerals (1)

  • Discovering that minerals are made of elements.
  • Exploring the nature of minerals.
  • compound
  • element
  • mineral

Students feel and observe different minerals.



Chemical compounds are substances composed of two or more elements united chemically in definite proportions by mass. Water is a compound composed of two atoms of hydrogen, a gas, and oxygen, another gas. Together they form a liquid with characteristics different from either element. This is the reason for studying elements and compounds separately. Elements and compounds have their own characteristics that a student must learn to identify.

Minerals are made of elements, and most minerals are compounds. At each station in this lab, the students will examine different minerals, and write down the elements that compose them. (Depending on your students' abilities, you might ask them to copy only the symbols.) The stations should be set up so the children can see and touch the mineral specimens.

  1. Before the lab prepare index cards listing the minerals your students will examine and their constituent elements. You will need one card per mineral, for each student group. I

    Save the index cards and reuse them in subsequent years.
    = IRON (Fe) + SULFUR (S)
    = SODIUM (Na) + CALCITE (Ca) + BORON (B) + OXYGEN (O)
    = CALCIUM (Ca) + SULFUR (S) + OXYGEN (O)
    = IRON (Fe) + OXYGEN (O)
    = CALCIUM (Ca) + CARBON (C) + OXYGEN (O)

  2. Prepare stations for each mineral. Each station will consist of a mineral, and its corresponding index card. For some of the minerals you may want to add a magnifying glass so that students can take a closer look at the mineral. Place a periodic table placemat at each station so that the students can find the elements in the minerals. If you are using two groups, one on each side of the room works well.
  3. Discuss some of the characteristics of the minerals. Place a picture under the ulexite and notice that the picture rises. Put a dot under the calcite, and notice the double image. Mica can break easily into sheets. Pyrite is called fool's gold; galena is called fool's silver. Gypsum is used in making the inside walls of houses (it is a component of sheet rock or wall board). Fluorite can be broken into diamond-shaped crystals. Hematite will make a red "streak" if it scratches a porcelain plate (not the glazed side). Apatite is the mineral that makes up the teeth in all vertebrate animals as well as their bones
  4. During the lab, review the names of the minerals one by one before the students go to the stations. Divide the class and tell them where they will be working. Be sure to tell them that all the groups have the same minerals. If you have your own set of minerals, use the Internet to find out the chemical combination. Just search the name of the mineral.
  5. Students should  complete the worksheet. Explain to them that they need to fill in which elements make up the mineral they are examining, and that they can find this information on the index card. Make sure you give students enough time to copy the words. Note that the information given to the students includes just the elements that are part of that mineral, not the correct chemical formulas. In later grades, the students will become familiar with the full formulas.

    You may want the students to "trace" the mineral under the "draw" column. This is just so students look at the mineral carefully.

  6. After the students have finished, go through the answers with them. Allow them to make any corrections needed.

[Back to Rock Cycle Grid]   [Back to Minerals (1)]