UEN Security Office
Technical Services Support Center (TSSC)
Eccles Broadcast Center
101 Wasatch Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
(801) 585-6105 (fax)
This activity will help students understand the basic properties of rocks and minerals.
For every student or pair of students:
For class or one for each group:
Minerals are the building blocks from which rocks are made. Some minerals, such as gold and copper are made up almost entirely of one chemical element. Others are mixtures of elements. Rocks are nearly always made of mixtures of different minerals. More background in the Invitation to Learn section.
Geologists study the rocks on Earth. They make detailed observations of the rocks they discover to identify the various minerals found in the rocks they find. To do this they use different techniques to try to sort out all the minerals to identify them. They look at texture, appearance, shape, color, and smell to identify them.
(One week prior to this activity make mock rocks and allow them to air dry.)
Materials: 2 bowls, white flour, granulated salt, alum, water, red food coloring, blue food coloring, yellow food coloring, coarse sand, aquarium gravel (mixed colors) and egg shells or sea shells
1. Use a Science Process and Thinking Skills
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
Pre-Assessment/Invitation to Learn
Explain that geologists study the earth. One thing that they study is rock. Geologists must make detailed observations of the rocks they discover. Ask students what they might observe about rocks (texture, shape, colors, smell, size). Tell students that these are the properties of the rock.
Show students a mock rock. Tell them that they are going to investigate this mock rock. To mock means to imitate or copy. This special rock imitates the properties of real rocks, but it is easier for young scientists with simple equipment to thoroughly investigate. They will be using some of the same observation techniques and skills that geologists use.
Geologists try to figure out what kind of rock they are examining. They do this by identifying the various ingredients in the rock. These ingredients are called minerals. The goal of the student is to use different techniques to try to sort out all the materials in order to identify them.
Homework & Family Connections
Write what the difference is between a rock and a mineral.
Give students samples of pure minerals and rocks. Have them sort them into two groups and explain why they put the rock or mineral in the group they did.