NAGT > Teaching Resources > Teaching Activities > Rock and mineral laboratory exercises in large auditorium classes

Rock and mineral laboratory exercises in large auditorium classes

Alfred H Pekarek
St. Cloud State University
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These exercises provide an opportunity for students in large auditorium classes with "hands on" examination of typical rocks and minerals and their properties.



Introductory physical geology course for non-majors. It could be modified for junior and senior high school.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered:

Students should be familiar with the periodic table of the elements, bonding of elements into compounds (minerals), mineral bonding types, physical combination of minerals into rocks, and the 3 basic classes of rocks.

How the activity is situated in the course:

There are four exercises given as a series. I gnerally present the series as the first four exercises in the semester.

National or State Education Standards addressed by this activity?:

Science Inquiry (5-8, 9-12)
Earth & Space Science (5-8, 9-12)


Content/concepts goals for this activity:

Perform basic tests used in the study of minerals.
Observation of rock and mineral samples for identification.
Can easily be expanded into the industrial uses of rocks and minerals.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

Chenistry of minerals and rocks, order of mineral crystallization in igneous rocks, textural changes in metamorphism, geologic context of rocks and minerals being studied.

Other skills goals for this activity:

Written reports and web searches could easily be incorporated. In small groups microscopic work could also be incorporated.

Description of the activity/assignment

This activity is designed to provide a lab experience for large auditorium classes when sufficient lab resources (room and time) are not available for the normal lab venue. Each student is provided with a rock and mineral kit and a set of exercises to be performed on the samples. To prepare for these exercises, students read the pertinent chapters in the textbook. The instructor provides additional specific information and discussion as needed in the classroom. The rock and mineral kits are handed out with the first exercise (minerals). The three exercises on the rock types are handed out after successive presentations on the igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks in that order. Completed exercises are collected at the following class. Exercises are graded and returned to the students. The activities are designed to provide students with a "hands on" experience with rocks and minerals.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students complete worksheets that are graded. Paper unknowns - the identification of rocks and minerals from a list of characteristics - is included in exams. Unknown rock and mineral specimens for student identification can also be used in exams.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Generally only the a good introductory field geology textbook is needed by the students.
The rock and mineral kits can be taylored to your needs and ordered from DJ Minerals in Butte Montana. Their website is:

Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Education, Geoscience:Geology:Mineralogy, Geoscience:Geology
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Problem Set, Classroom Activity
Special Interest: Large Classroom
Grade Level: High School (9-12), College Lower (13-14)
Learning Environment: Large Classes
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Topics: Solid Earth, Education
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Mineralogy