Friday, February 8, 2013

Mineral Madness

Learning about Luster: Dull, Glassy, Metallic
What's the difference between a mineral and a rock?  Not sure? Well, the fourth grade students learned first hand what tests are used to tell the difference!

Thanks to our generous PAC, we were treated to an excellent in-house field trip by Natural DiscoveriesPete Money, owner and presenter, engaged the students with humor, mineral samples, a video-microscope and 3D visuals.

Mineral Samples

Properties geologists use to determine the mineral type include the following: hardness, density, color, luster, and some other secret properties.  Each of these properties were discussed.  Examples were given and students had the chance to participate in these scientific investigations.

The first test included 4 samples (a brick, a piece of coral, a rock & a piece of quartz).  The group used the definition of a mineral to determine if any of those are minerals. 

A mineral is:
  • a solid
  • made by nature
  • never alive
  • has same elements inside

 Another test found a student checking the color of the mineral using a "streak test".  A mineral's color can be determined by the color of the residue left behind.  Taking the mineral sample and dragging it across a piece of rough tile will show the chemical color of the sample. This was done UNDER the microscope which was then projected onto a video screen for all to see. It showed that although Quartz comes in many colors all the 'streaks' come across as white.

Examining Mica!
Along with learning a mineral's properties, students learned how certain minerals are used in many of our everyday items.  Feldspar, for example is used the making of porcelain and china.  Quartz is used in computers and graphite is used in pencils.  Through the use of the above visual students had a great understanding of the uses of minerals today.

This presentation was a great way to get kids excited about Earth Science.  Pete said that the best thing about rocks and minerals is that you can find them right outside your door! Don't be surprised if your budding geologists starting bringing home samples!