Ore Exploration Game

Beth Lincoln
Albion College
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Initial Publication Date: December 12, 2013 | Reviewed: July 21, 2015
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Students in an introductory-level physical geology course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered:

Mineral and rock identification, geologic map interpretation, construction of simple cross sections, knowledge of relative time and of ore deposits

How the activity is situated in the course:

Follows coverage in lecture and lab of rocks and minerals, structures, geologic maps, ore deposits, and relative time

National or State Education Standards addressed by this activity?:


Content/concepts goals for this activity:

Students demonstrate their level of knowledge of mineral and rock identification and interpretation of rock sequences and geologic maps.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

Students must integrate their own observations with material from lecture, lab, and textbook to construct a coherent, geologically plausible interpretation of the history of the map area, and use their knowledge to locate ore.

Other skills goals for this activity:

Description of the activity/assignment

Geology 101 Introductory Geology at Albion College meets the Science Mode requirement through which students learn the process of science and the impact of geology on their own lives. To help students achieve these goals, we devised multiple-week projects to serve as the culmination of each half of the semester, replacing traditional lab exams. One of these is the ore exploration game, which requires students to integrate material covered in 6 weeks of lectures and labs on minerals, rocks, structures and topographic and geologic maps and to apply what they have learned to a practical problem. Students divide into teams or "mineral exploration companies" of 3 to 4 members. They are given rules for the game, an exploration budget, a geologic map, a set of rock samples keyed to the map, and worksheets to fill out as they collect information. Their assignment is to use this information to locate ore bodies both exposed and hidden and acquire the rights to these through an auction on the last day of the project. In week 1, they identify and describe samples, label structures on the map, draw cross sections, and develop a geologic history. In week 2, the groups buy geochemical and drill hole data and use these along with the geology to locate and describe ore bodies. By the end of this lab, each group will have described at least one kind of ore. Deposits are hidden with varying degrees of subtlety, allowing all students to find some ore and the best to demonstrate their abilities. In week 3, students hand in completed maps and cross sections (done as teams), and a geologic history of the area that includes descriptions of samples and structures as well as interpretations of their environments of formation, along with a two-page paper on the ore deposits (papers and histories written as individuals). Groups use the funds left in their exploration budget to bid on squares of the map they believe contain ore. To be successful, students must approach the problem as geologists, going beyond simple rock and structure identification to interpretation of rock assemblages in the context of a geologic map and synthesis of these interpretations into a coherent narrative history.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Maps, cross sections, geologic histories and papers are graded using departmentally developed schemes. In addition, we are developing a rubric to assess this project as part of the integrative thinking component of our assessment plan.

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