Activity 3.1 - Muffin Mining
- Describe different mining methods, the conditions under which they are used, and their impacts.
- Explain the purpose of beneficiation and the importance/challenges of managing mining-related waste products.
- Explain challenges to reclamation and remediation.
Context for Use
In this approximately 30-minute hands-on activity, students in an introductory geoscience course review concepts related to mining processes and their potential challenges and impacts. The activity and the included discussion questions help students review and comprehend material presented in the background reading.
Ideally, students should have also already completed the Unit 3 Background Reading and homework on the Abandoned Mine Lands & SuperFund/National Priorities List.
Students should work in small groups (2–5 students) on this in-class activity.
Description and Teaching Materials
- Students divide into small groups (ideally 2–3 students).
- Each group is given a muffin (and warned not to eat it) and some mining/exploration "tools" (e.g., clear straws, spoons, toothpicks, etc.).
- Groups are asked to locate and "recover" their ore (e.g., blueberries) within a certain amount of time.
- Once the mining is completed, students should try to restore their muffin to look like (and feel like) it did prior to mining.
- Guiding questions for the students are provided (below) for small-group or whole-class discussion. Answers, along with explicit ties to the background reading, are provided in the Instructor Notes file linked below.
- During the activity, student groups could be asked to report (list on the board) their percentage of ore recovered vs. waste product vs. undisturbed bedrock. They could then later be able to compare the class results and the methods each group used and why the groups percentages varied (or not).
- Once completed, the whole class should discuss the ideas presented in the background reading/PowerPoint as they pertain to this activity as a means of reflection and review.
Guiding Questions for Students for Muffin Mining Activity in Word (Microsoft Word 43kB Oct4 14) and in PDF. (Acrobat (PDF) 96kB Oct4 14) Questions to guide the students in their reflections during and after the muffin mining process. In the interest of time, students should simply discuss (not write down the answers to) the questions, and use these answers to contribute to the whole-class discussion at the activity's conclusion. Or, groups can mine their muffins without seeing the questions, and these questions could be used by the instructor to guide the whole-class discussion. This file has been written for activities using one or two blueberry muffins and will need to be edited slightly based on the number and type of muffins used.
Teaching Notes and Tips
- Warn the students not the eat the muffin until the activity is fully completed (otherwise it might be hard to estimate percentages or try to restore the muffin landscape!).
- This activity could also be completed with cupcakes or cookies.
- This activity should take approximately 30 minutes as written; if instructors have more time, they can allow the students more time to work with their muffins and to calculate their data, and for the wrap-up/background review discussion.
- Other calculations could be added if an instructor has additional time. For example, students could be asked to weigh the waste rock and the recovered ore and could calculate a concentration factor, then determine what metals are found in similar concentrations, then determine the amount of waste rock created by mining some of that real metal, etc.
- The instructor could skip this activity if it is not feasible for their particular classroom. They can either expand the Ore Grades, Waste, and Remediation Activity (as described therein) or complete the alternative Gallery Walk version of the Abandoned Mine Lands & SuperFund/National Priorities List pre-unit homework (as described therein).
- See the Instructor Notes (linked above) for additional (and more specific) teaching notes.
Assessments and Learning Outcomes
The learning outcomes are addressed by the activity questions as listed below:
- Describe different mining methods, under what conditions they are used, and their impacts: Guiding Questions 1A (1 and 2); Guiding Questions 1B (1, 2, and 4); Guiding Questions 2 (3 and 5); Concept Map.
- Explain the purpose of beneficiation and importance/challenges of managing waste products: Guiding Questions 1A (3 and 4); Guiding Question 1B (3); Guiding Questions 2 (3 and 4); Concept Map.
- Explain challenges to reclamation and remediation: Guiding Question 1A (5); Guiding Questions 1B (4 and 5); Guiding Questions 2 (1 and 2); Concept Map.
If completed as a written activity, answers to guiding questions (on the student handout) could be graded individually or based on thoroughness. A class discussion could be used to assess overall, although not individual, understanding.
At the end of the Instructors Notes documents linked above, a additional question is provided, asking the students to sketch a concept map of the processes described in the unit thus far. This question can be assigned to individuals or small groups and also used as an assessment tool.
References and Resources
- A good reading for students or background information for instructor on mining metals: Metal Mining and the Environment by Hudson et al. (1999) American Geological Institute.
- There are many examples and variations of this activity online (complete an online search using "Muffin Mining" as your search terms). Some are more quantitative than others.
Acknowledgment: Thanks to M. Porrini for bringing this exercise to my attention many years ago.