Initial Publication Date: October 31, 2008

Mineralogy, Petrology, and Geochemistry Across the Curriculum:
Teaching Clay Mineralogy

A compilation by David Mogk, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Montana State University

Why is Clay Mineralogy Interesting and Important for Interpreting Earth and for Society?

If the surface of Earth was in equilibrium, clay minerals would rule! Clay minerals (and clay-sized particles) represent the ultimate fate of the crystalline rocks as they interact with surficial environmental conditions, provide the substrate that sustains life (and may even have played an essential role in the creation of life!), are important constituents of the "critical zone," play a key role in global biogeochemical cycling, and are important to humanity with respect to their role in natural hazards (swelling clays, slip surfaces of landslides and faults), as a natural resource, as they impact human health, their importance to civil engineering projects, and topical issues such as nuclear waste repositories.

This collection of teaching activities on clay mineralogy has been developed to complement the 46th Annual Meeting of the Clay Minerals Society which will be convened June 5-11, 2009 in Billings, Montana. This collection is developed in collaboration with the On the Cutting Edge program for faculty development in the geosciences.

The purpose of this collection is to provide instructional resources about clay mineralogy that can be used across the curriculum. In addition to traditional mineralogy courses, the following activities can also be used in a range of courses such as Environmental Geology, Sedimentary Geology, Structural Geology, Economic Geology and many more!

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Halloysite X-ray Patterns

Teaching Activities

Teaching Clay Science Workbook

Teaching Clay Science, CMS Workshop Lectures, Volume 11, Audrey C. Rule and Stephen Guggenheim, Editors. Published by The Clay Minerals Society, 2002, 223 pages. Purchase this volume from the Clay Minerals Society. Visit the Table of Contents (Acrobat (PDF) 189kB Feb26 09) for this volume.

Characterization of Clay Minerals

Clay Mineralogy and Structural Geology

Clay Mineralogy and Sedimentary Geology

  • Mudcracks -- Diane M. Burns, Eastern Illinois University, from the "Stratigraphic Up Tutorial"
Montmorillonite Structure

Clay Mineralogy and Geohydrology

Clay Minerals and Engineering Geology

Clay Minerals and Planetary and Meteoric Materials

Please contribute activities

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Online Resources

Tutorials on Mineralogical Analytical Instruments and Techniques

  • Educational resources from the Clay Minerals Society--including K-12 Activities, Online courses Lectures and Labs, Clay Glossary, and Images of Clays.

Resources on Chemical Weathering and Soil Formation

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References to Support Teaching About Clay Mineralogy

Articles About Teaching Clay Mineralogy

  • Hluchy, M.M., 1999, The Value of Teaching X-ray Techniques and Clay Mineralogy to Undergraduates, Jour. Geoscience Education, v. 47, p. 236-240.
  • A Powerpoint presentation on use of XRD in Soil Science (PowerPoint 1.6MB Sep7 07) by Melody Bergeron, Image and Chemical Analysis Laboratory at Montana State University.
  • Brady, John B., and Boardman, Shelby J., 1995, Introducing Mineralogy Students to X-ray Diffraction Through Optical Diffraction Experiments Using Lasers. Jour. Geol. Education, v. 43 #5, 471-476.
  • Brady, John B., Newton, Robert M., and Boardman, Shelby J., 1995, New Uses for Powder X-ray Diffraction Experiments in the Undergraduate Curriculum. Jour. Geol. Education, v. 43 #5, 466-470.

Articles About Clay Mineralogy That can be Used for Class Discussions, Projects, Individual or Small-Group Activities...

Please Contribute Articles of Interest

Books and Articles on How to Study Clay Minerals

  • Bish, DL and Post, JE, editors. 1989. Modern Powder Diffraction. Reviews in Mineralogy, v. 20. Mineralogical Society of America.
  • Klug, H. P., and L. E. Alexander. 1974. X-ray diffraction procedures for polycrystalline and amorphous materials. 2nd ed. Wiley, New York.
  • Moore, D. M. and R. C. Reynolds, Jr. 1997. X-Ray diffraction and the identification and analysis of clay minerals. 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • A Laboratory Manual for X-Ray Powder Diffraction -- L.J. Poppe, V.F. Paskevich, J.C. Hathaway, and D.S. Blackwood, USGS Open File Report 01-041; Includes chapters on an XRD primer, Preparatory and Interpretive Procedures, a review of the types of clay minerals, and a clay mineral identification flow diagram

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