Spatial Thinking Workbook > Teaching Activities

Teaching Activities

The activities in this collection are designed to help undergraduate geoscience students develop their spatial visualization skills, and particularly their penetrative thinking skills: the ability to visualize spatial relations inside an object. Collectively, these exercises are the Spatial Thinking Workbook.


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Subject: Geology

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Comparing Phyllosilicate Structures
Students compare the chemistry and structures of biotite, muscovite, and chlorite.

Gestures for Miller Indices
Students use one hand to gesture crystallographic axes and the other hand to represent planes designated by Miller Indices.

Gestures for Silicate Structures
Students use gestures to show the structures of single and double chain silicate minerals, paying attention to where silica tetrahedra share oxygen ions and the relative positions of the tetrahedra.

Comparing Quartz Polymorphs
Students compare the structures of low-temperature and high-temperature polymorphs of quartz, relating their differences to symmetry and crystal systems.

Understanding Polyhedral Diagrams
Students identify individual polyhedra in a variety of diagrams and answer questions about shared oxygens in diagrams of common silicate structures.

Understanding Crystal Symmetry via Gestures
Students use a small mirror to explore the meaning of mirror symmetry, and then use their hands to gesture mirror planes for a group of familiar objects. They also explore the rotational symmetry of a group of familiar objects, and then use their hands to gesture the rotational axes and rotation. Finally, they use gestures to show mirror and rotational symmetry of wooden crystal models.

Understanding Mineral Cleavage via Gestures
Students use gesture to convey information about mineral cleavage and the relationship between crystal structures and cleavage planes.

Deciphering Mineral Structure Diagrams
Students compare mineral structures shown in ball-and-stick, space filling, and polyhedral diagrams.

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