Mineral Classification Exercise

Dexter Perkins
University of North Dakota
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This exercise gets students thinking about mineral classification and the properties that are most useful for classifying and identifying minerals.

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Sophomore level Mineralogy class.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have knowledge of minerals equivalent to what they would get in an introductory geology class.

How the activity is situated in the course

We use this early in the class as an introduction to mineral properties. It comes before we start systematically looking at groups of minerals.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Students learn about the properties that are most useful for mineral classification.
  • They also become familiar with some historical aspects of mineral science.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • This exercise is a collaborative/cooperative learning exercise that helps students develop their observational and analytical skills.
  • They must synthesize a variety of information to derive a cogent classification scheme.
  • It involves hypothesis testing, critical thinking and interpretation.

Other skills goals for this activity

  • This is a good exercise to get students comfortable working in small groups.
  • It also involves peer critiquing and evaluation.

Description of the activity/assignment

This exercise is designed to help students think about the properties of minerals that are most useful for mineral classification and identification.
  • Students are given a set of minerals and asked to come up with a hierarchical classification scheme (a "key") that can be used to identify different mineral species.
  • They compare their results with the products of other groups.
  • They test the various schemes by applying them to unknown samples.
  • While doing this exercise, the students develop observational and interpretational skill.
  • They also begin to think about the nature of classification systems.

Determining whether students have met the goals

  • Students prepare critiques of their own and of other group's classification systems.
  • The depth and insight displayed in their critiques reveals whether the activity was a success.

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