We have designed a laboratory activity for students enrolled in an introductory geology course at the college level, but the lab could be used in a high school setting or in a major course in mineralogy or earth materials as an icebreaker and/or as a refresher of mineral properties. For this laboratory, stations are set up that introduce students to a particular mineral property or concept. Students, working in groups, may complete the stations in any order – allowing for greater flexibility and traffic flow. We have developed 9 stations that feature the following: mineral density, luster, cleavage/conchoidal fracture, crystal form, hardness, streak, color, economic value, and miscellaneous properties (such as double refraction, effervescence with acid, magnetism, etc.). At each station, a laminated instruction sheet is displayed that is keyed to particular page numbers in the student’s laboratory manual. We use the physical geology lab manual edited by Busch & Tasa (published by AGI/NAGT). The students first read brief sections of text in their lab manual and then conduct a hands-on, discovery based activity to learn the property of interest. Students are asked to read outside of class time the chapter on minerals in the labbook prior to beginning the lab, but many forget or choose not to do so. Thus, we find having the students read or re-read brief passages immediately before doing each activity to be an effective use of ‘just-in-time’ learning.
This lab is flexible in timing in that it can be done before/after – or in lieu of – a discussion of mineral properties. We use the lab as a replacement for any formal discussion of mineral properties, to introduce students to many of the common, rock-forming minerals, and as preparation for a subsequent mineral identification lab. The exact specimens used can be tailored to suit different mineral collections. The lab is fairly self-explanatory so that students may complete the lab on their own as a refresher/tutorial or as a makeup to a missed lab without supervision. Our observations indicate that this lab promotes retention of concepts and significant discussion among group members.
Our poster will describe each activity in detail and present preliminary outcomes data on the effectiveness of this laboratory.