Mineral Separation and Provenance Lab Exercise

Mary Roden-Tice
,
State University of New York at Plattsburgh
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Summary

Students will examine mineral separates from sand samples collected from a number of rivers each of which drains a slightly different geologic terrane. Differences in mineralogic composition and mineral abundance will be used to suggest different provenance for each of the sand samples.
These sand samples may be treated as unknowns or the students may be informed of where the sand was sampled. At the end of the mineral separations and binocular microscope identification, the students may be allowed to consult geologic maps of the regions sampled to aid in their provenance determination.

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Context

Audience

This activity is designed for an undergraduate required course in mineralogy and is generally for sophomore or junior level students.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should be familiar with using a balance to obtain mass and general chemistry laboratory methods (separating heavy liquids using a separatory funnel).

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is a stand-alone exercise, but is part of a larger volume of classroom and laboratory activities from "Teaching Mineralogy," a workbook published by the Mineralogical Society of America, Brady, J., Mogk, D. W., and Perkins, D., (editors), 1997,406 pp.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

This lab exercise has three main objectives: 1) to help students learn to identify mineral grains under the binocular microscope; 2) to demonstrate differences in density and magnetic properties among minerals; 3) to see how a river's sand-sized sediment fraction reflects its source.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This laboratory exercise aids in strengthening a student's ability to analyze data.

Other skills goals for this activity

This activity may improve students' ability to work in groups and in writing up a scientific report.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students will examine mineral separates from sand samples collected from a number of rivers each of which drains a slightly different geologic terrane. Differences in mineralogic composition and mineral abundance will be used to suggest different provenance for each of the sand samples.
These sand samples may be treated as unknowns or the students may be informed of where the sand was sampled. At the end of the mineral separations and binocular microscope identification, the students may be allowed to consult geologic maps of the regions sampled to aid in their provenance determination.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students have met the goals of this activity if they thoroughly and accurately complete the associated data analysis questions and if they turn in a well-written and thoughtful laboratory report.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Klein, Cornelius and Hurlbut, Cornelius S., Jr. (1993) Manual of Mineralogy. 21st edition, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, 681 p.

Mack, Walter N. and Leistikow, Elizabeth A. (1996) Sands of the World. Scientific American, 275, 62-67.

Rosenblum, Sam (1953) Magnetic susceptibilities of minerals in the Franz isodynamic magnetic separator. American Mineralogist, 43, 170-173.

Brady, J., Mogk, D. W., and Perkins, D., (editors), 1997, Teaching Mineralogy, a workbook published by the Mineralogical Society of America, 406 pp.

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