Teach the Earth > Mineralogy > Selected Readings


Spessartine garnets
Rare spessartine garnets, copyright 2005 Andrew Alden, reproduced under fair use policy.

The April 2007 volume of Elements Magazine on teaching mineralogy, petrology and geochemistry. To complement this volume, we have developed the Elements Bibliography that includes an extensive collection of articles, teaching activities, on-line resources, and related information on the scholarship of teaching.

The January 2004 issue of the Journal of Geoscience Education is a special issue dedicated to teaching mineralogy. Each of the articles from that issue, plus additional articles of interest, are listed below.

  • Using the American Mineralogist Crystal Structure Database in the Classroom. Clark and Downs, 2004 This is an online version of a paper published in the Journal of Geoscience Education which discusses the use of the American Mineralogist Crystal Structure Database in the setting of secondary and university-level science education. The paper describes the format of the database, how to obtain crystal structure data from it, ancillary visualization software, and suggestions for ways to implement the database for teaching chemistry and mineralogy. (Full Text Online)
  • Integration of New Methods into Teaching Mineralogy. [Darby, Gunter and Davis, 2004] This Journal of Geoscience Education article presents a revised mineralogy curriculum based on the course designers' reflections on appropriate content and on new learning methods and teaching styles. The authors believe that the key to restructuring mineralogy classes involves setting reasonable, prioritized course goals and employing (at least) four modern pedagogical learning methods: spiral learning, inquiry-based learning, concept maps, and use of interactive models and visualization. The article lists course goals and methods with which to achieve these goals. (Full Text Online)
  • How Much Crystallography Should We Teach Geologists?. [Donnay and Donnay, 1978] This article presents an overview of topics that should be covered in a mineralogy class, including morphological crystallography and structural (X-ray) crystallography. (citation and description)
  • Teaching Mineralogy from the Core to the Crust. [Dutrow, 2004] This Journal of Geoscience Education article discusses revising the typical sequence of a mineralogy course in order to enhance retention of information and facilitate learning. Beginning with the Earth's core, simple native elements are introduced followed by minerals with increasing complexity as the course moves outward to the Earth's crust. Key theoretical concepts are interwoven into discussions of various portions of the Earth. This flexible framework allows individual courses to be tailored to the needs of the department while maintaining geological relevance. Examples of lab exercises are also included, as well as a discussion of both benefits and drawbacks of this method. (Full Text Online)
  • The Polarized Light Microscope: Should we Teach the use of a 19th Century Instrument in the 21st Century?. [Gunter, 2004] This Journal of Geoscience Education article discusses reasons that the use of the polarized light microscope (PLM), and the teaching of optical mineralogy in general, is decreasing. The author feels that excluding the subject of optical microscopy is the biggest mistake geoscience teachers could make. The author justifies his statement by citing the fundamentally important concepts presented in optical mineralogy: 1) three-dimensional visualization, 2) inquiry-based learning, and 3) hands-on use of an analytical instrument. The article also includes various uses of the PLM as well as its history and examples of current research usage. (Full Text Online)
  • Mineralogy: A Historical Review. [Hazen, 1984] This article presents an overview of the history of mineralogy, including the physical properties of minerals, crystallography and mineral structure, the discovery of elements in naturally occurring minerals, and classification schemes. (citation and description)
  • Characterization and Identification of Mineral Unknowns: A Mineralogy Term Project. [Moecher, 2004] This article discusses single term undergraduate mineralogy course completion of a project involving the characterization and identification of mineral unknowns. These identifications are based on physical properties, unit cell parameters or d-spacings determined from powder X-ray diffraction scans, chemical composition determined on an electron microbeam instrument, and optical properties determined with a petrographic microscope. Each phase of the project is timed to compliment the sequence of concepts covered in mineralogy lecture and lab. Such a project serves to illustrate applications of methods discussed in lecture and to pique the interest of students for pursuing mineralogic research projects later in their careers. (citation and description)
  • Crystallography in the Classroom-Modeling Silicates without Silicate Models. [Ponomarenko, 2004] This Journal of Geoscience Education article proposes two alternatives to the traditional ball-and-stick model for teaching silicate chemistry and crystallography in the classroom. The first model uses fresh fruits of varying sizes to demonstrate the basic silicon-oxygen tetrahedral structure, and to show how covalent and metallic bonding can reduce the negative charge balance, ultimately creating viable silicate minerals. The second uses students to represent large mobile silicon tetrahedral in a truly hands-on approach to understanding silicate minerals and magmas. The two methods used together and supplemented with active in-class discussion provide for optimal learning, even in large classes. (Full Text Online)
  • Mineral Museums as Alliance Partners in Teaching Mineral Sciences. [Pop, Horak, and Hurlbut, 2004] This Journal of Geoscience Education article discusses the expanding role of museum curators as mineral museums change their traditional displays to interactive and informative presentations. The authors propose that to be effective, education in museums must be underpinned by curriculum developments and a sound collaboration with partners from the formal education system. Included in the article are specific projects implemented by the authors' museums which will demonstrate how sensibility, mystery, and even fun are essential to successful mineral exhibits. (Full Text Online)
  • Teaching Process Mineralogy in Australia. [Quinton, 2004] This Journal of Geoscience Education article discusses new curriculum materials being developed for use in Australian undergraduate and postgraduate courses in process mineralogy. Funded by the Minerals Council of Australia, the modular format and appropriate use of internet technologies mean the courses can be delivered to external students as well as those on campus. Emphasis is placed on characterization of ore minerals and mill products. Case study materials provide opportunities for students in both courses to study the application of mineralogy to problems in mineral processing and extractive metallurgy. The program is designed to help students acquire knowledge and skills that will prepare them for a profession in mineralogy. (Full Text Online)
  • Optical Mineralogy in a Modern Earth Sciences Curriculum. [Reinhardt, 2004] This article from the Journal of Geoscience Education discusses the author's belief that changes in the perspectives of geoscience education and the necessity to accommodate students with interdisciplinary interest create a need for an optical mineralogy course that is concise, yet meets the demands of subsequent course modules that build on it. The author proposes that application-focused lab materials, practice-oriented teaching with a strong interactive component, and computer-based teaching aids can be used to enhance both the theoretical and the practical aspects of optical mineralogy. (Full Text Online)
  • Using Poetry to Teach about Minerals in Earth Science Class. [Rule and Kane, 2004] This Journal of Geoscience Education article discusses a class which incorporates poetry into science teaching in order to expand the curriculum beyond content knowledge or process skills. In this undergrad class, students researched a mineral of their choice and then wrote a poem that contained facts and their personal reaction to the mineral. The exercise appeared to enhance students' perceptions and learning experiences through an appreciation of mineralogy. (Full Text Online)
  • A Strategy for Teaching an Effective Undergraduate Mineralogy Course. [Swope and Reto, 2004] This paper describes a strategy for integrating the many topics covered in a mineralogy course and presenting them in a manner that facilitates an understanding of mineralogy that enables students to apply it in subsequent courses and research. The strategy used is to organize the course into a well-integrated sequence of lectures, demonstrations and laboratory exercises that unfolds the material logically and at a pace that is responsive to the students' needs. A sixteen week outline, with suggested lab exercises and minerals covered in labs, is also included. (Full Text Online)
  • Laboratory and Homework Exercises in the Geochemical Kinetics of Mineral-Water Reaction: Rate Law, Arrhenius Activation Energy, and the Rate-Determining Step in the Dissolution of Halite. [Velbel, 2004] This exercise for a mineralogy or geochemistry course, published in the Journal of Geoscience Education, uses optical microscopy to measure the grain sizes of equant halite crystals and the time for complete dissolution of each grain. Using hot plates, the procedure can be repeated at a second, elevated temperature, allowing determination of the temperature dependence (Arrhenius activation energy) of the reaction. The data generated are then used in homework exercises to calculate (1) a simple rate law for the dissolution of halite in pure water; (2) the rate of coefficient in that rate law, at two different temperatures; and (3) the activation energy of the halite dissolution reaction. The lab and homework illustrate several basic principles of chemical kinetics, including diffusion, the temperature dependence of reaction rates, and the relationship between rate-determining mechanisms and crystal-surface morphology. (Full Text Online)
  • Using Inquiry-Based Methodologies to Ease the Pain of Learning Mineral Formulae and Analytical Techniques. [Wulff, 2004] This article from the Journal of Geoscience Education discusses the use of constructivist-type approaches to the memorization of mineral formula and analytical techniques. The author shows that the use of this approach facilitated gains in both retention of and interest in both factual and contextual information. Students were able to take control of their own learning through the development and presentation of individualized Standard Operating Procedures for analytical equipment, and retaking mineral quizzes at their discretion. The article also provides suggestions about implementation of this technique, and further results of its use. (Full Text Online)
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