Cutting Edge > Courses > Petrology > Teaching Activities > Pet Rock Project: A Semester-long Exercise for Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology

Pet Rock Project: A Semester-long Exercise for Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology

Darrell J. Henry
,
Louisiana State University
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

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This page first made public: Jul 17, 2008

Summary

The pet rock project is a semester-long project in which each student randomly selects an igneous or metamorphic rock from the instructor or brings in a rock from an appropriate locality, and follows all of the steps a petrologist would take to interpret an igneous or metamorphic rock from an unknown area. This project runs in the background of the petrology class during the initial part of the semester while the student acquires the petrologic skills to make more sophisticated interpretations. The culmination of the project is for each student to spend several hours with the instructor using the electron microprobe to identify more difficult minerals with certainty, to produce high quality digital backscattered electron images and to obtain quantitative electron microprobe analyses of selected minerals that aid in the interpretation of the pet rock.

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Context

Audience

This exercise is designed for a sophomore or junior level required course in petrology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have a basic knowledge of petrology and petrologic laboratory skills.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a semester-long culminating project.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

This project is designed to give petrology students experience in the methods and approaches taken by petrologists to solve a petrologic problem. This project ranges from the basic descriptive aspects to very sophisticated utilization of the electron microprobe facility i.e. it follows the process commonly used in petrology research.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This activity involves data analysis and synthesis of ideas.

Other skills goals for this activity

This project involves writing and oral presentations.

Description of the activity/assignment

The pet rock project is a semester-long project in which each student randomly selects an igneous or metamorphic rock from the instructor or brings in a rock from an appropriate locality, and follows all of the steps a petrologist would take to interpret an igneous or metamorphic rock from an unknown area. This project runs in the background of the petrology class during the initial part of the semester while the student acquires the petrologic skills to make more sophisticated interpretations. The culmination of the project is for each student to spend several hours with the instructor using the electron microprobe to identify more difficult minerals with certainty, to produce high quality digital backscattered electron images and to obtain quantitative electron microprobe analyses of selected minerals that aid in the interpretation of the pet rock. Ultimately, the student interprets the rock, generally with the assistance of the instructor, writes a report explaining the process and results and presents the results to the class.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students have met the goals of this assignment if they write a thorough, well-written report explaining their processes and results and successfully present their findings to the class.

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