InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Human's Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Oct 16, 2014

Summary

Despite humans' heavy reliance on Earth's mineral resources, few think about where the products they use come from and what it took to produce them. This module addresses that disconnect by combining learning about rocks and minerals (and how these become the products students use), methods of mineral resource discovery and extraction, and the impact of mineral resource use. This module allows important geoscience concepts to be taught in the context of important and immediate societal issues while also asking students to confront human issues such as environmental justice, economics, personal choice, and politics that may arise due to obtaining, beneficiating, transporting, trading, using, and disposing of natural resources.

Strengths of the Module

Incorporates systems thinking inherent to the study of the rock cycle. It expands beyond the geosphere to include parts of the hydrosphere and atmosphere and how they are affected by mining.

Uses real-life examples of issues related to resource management and extraction for collaborative problem solving. These problems incorporate ideas from economics, social and environmental justice, and the geosciences.

Content is delivered using a variety of student-centered activities, including group discussions, concept mapping, jigsaws, and cooperative learning.

Several student activities are hands-on, developing skills including analysis of actual geoscience data, model-building, and hypothesis formation and testing.

The module is extremely flexible, allowing for reorganization of units and even picking and choosing only select activities and/or units.


A great fit for courses in:

  • economic geology
  • environmental science
  • environmental geology
  • introductory geology
  • geological hazards
  • global change
  • sustainability

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These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards. At the top of each page, you can click on the NGSS logo to see the specific connections. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more about the process of alignment and how to use InTeGrate materials to implement the NGSS.

NGSS in this Module

This unit about Mineral Resources includes opportunities for exposure to basic geologic concepts about mineral and rock-forming processes and the role of plate tectonics in these processes. It addresses this content mostly in the context CCC4 (Systems and System Models) although it can also be used to bring in other CCCs such as Energy and Matter and Stability and Change. A variety of SEPs from SEP4 (Analyzing and interpreting data), SEP6 (constructing explanations), and SEP7 (engaging in argument from evidence), and SEP8 (obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information) are emphasized, although SEP2 (developing and using models) and SEP5 (using mathematics) are also required to a lesser extent. SEP1 (asking questions) and SEP3(planning and conducting investigations) are not addressed. Important PEs in ESS3,The Earth and Human Activity, are addressed directly by Unit 6, the capstone activity as well as some of the module's earlier activities.

This module is appropriate for introductory-level science and social science courses. The module is designed to stand alone and can be easily adapted to many class sizes and formats (large- or small-enrollment classes, online/distance-learning courses, and interdisciplinary courses).

Supported NSF Earth Science Literacy Principles:

  • Big Idea 1. Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
  • 1.1. Earth scientists find solutions to society's needs.
  • 1.2. Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
  • 1.3. Earth science investigations take many different forms.
  • 1.4. Earth scientists must use indirect methods to examine and understand the structure, composition, and dynamics of Earth's interior.
  • 1.5. Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth's future.
  • 1.6. Earth scientists construct models of Earth and its processes that best explain the available geological evidence.
  • 1.7. Technological advances, breakthroughs in interpretation, and new observations continuously refine our understanding of Earth.
  • Big Idea 3. Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life.
    • 3.7. Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
  • Big Idea 4. Earth is continuously changing.
    • 4.1. Earth's geosphere changes through geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, and biological processes that are explained by universal laws.
    • 4.5. Many active geologic processes occur at plate boundaries.
    • 4.6. Earth materials take many different forms as they cycle through the geosphere.
    • 4.8. Weathered and unstable rock materials erode from some parts of Earth's surface and are deposited in others.
  • Big Idea 7. Humans depend on Earth for resources.
    • 7.1. Earth is our home; its resources mold civilizations, drive human exploration, and inspire human endeavors that include art, literature, and science.
    • 7.3. Natural resources are limited.
    • 7.4. Resources are distributed unevenly around the planet.
    • 7.6. Soil, rocks, and minerals provide essential metals and other materials for agriculture, manufacturing, and building.
    • 7.7. Earth scientists and engineers develop new technologies to extract resources while reducing the pollution, waste, and ecosystem degradation caused by extraction.
    • 7.10. Earth scientists help society move toward greater sustainability.
  • Big Idea 9. Humans significantly alter the Earth.
  • 9.1. Human activities significantly change the rates of many of Earth's surface processes.
  • 9.4. Humans affect the quality, availability, and distribution of Earth's water through the modification of streams, lakes, and groundwater.
  • 9.5. Human activities alter the natural land surface.
  • 9.6. Human activities accelerate land erosion.
  • 9.8. Earth scientists document and seek to understand the impacts of humans on global change over short and long time spans.
  • 9.9. An Earth-science-literate public, informed by a current and accurate scientific understanding of Earth, is critical to the promotion of good stewardship, sound policy, and international cooperation.
  • This module also aligns with three of the National Research Council's (NRC) Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences:
    • Grand Challenge 6. Institutions and Resource Use: To develop a systematic understanding of the role of institutions--markets, hierarchies, legal structures, regulatory arrangements, international conventions, and other formal and informal sets of rules--in shaping systems for natural resource use, extraction, waste disposal, and other environmentally important activities.
    • Grand Challenge 7. Land-Use Dynamics: To develop a systematic understanding of changes in land uses and land covers that are critical to biogeochemical cycling, ecosystem functioning and services, and human welfare.
    • Grand Challenge 8. Reinventing the Use of Materials: To develop a quantitative understanding of the global budgets and cycles of key materials used by humanity and of how the life cycles of these materials may be modified. Among the materials of particular interest for this grand challenge are those with documented or potential environmental impacts, those whose long-term availability is in some question, and those with a high potential for recycling and reuse.


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    These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
    Explore the Collection »