Cutting Edge > Courses > Geochemistry > Teaching Activities > REE Modeling of Melting and Crystallization

REE Modeling of Melting and Crystallization

Mark Schmitz
Department of Geosciences, Boise State University
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

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This page first made public: May 17, 2005


This exercise is used in and out of class for exploring the use of trace elements to model melting and crystallization processes; it emphasizes quantitative skills and constructing numerical models.

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This exercise is used in an upper undergraduate course in "Whole Earth Geochemistry", which is a part of our core curriculum and is taken mainly by seniors (or juniors) in the fall semester, after "Earth Materials" (Mineralogy and Petrography), but before "Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology."

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is one of six hybrid in- and out-of-class exercises/problem sets which comprise 50% of the assessment for the course. Each of these exercises focus on sharpening quantitative, analytical and numerical skills applied to the diverse geochemical topics covered in class lectures.


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Description of the activity/assignment

In this activity, students are led through some introductory lecture material on rare earth elements, distribution coefficients, and the derivation of equations relating element concentrations in solids and liquids during processes of both equilibrium and fractional melting and crystallization. This lecture material is interspersed with class discussion questions that seek to actively query the students' stepwise understanding of concepts. The activity culminates in the students' construction of rare earth element diagrams for rock samples, a fractional crystallization numerical model (e.g. a spreadsheet) for forward modeling and comparison to data, and an equilibrium modal melting model, again for comparison to a real data set.

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