InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources > Module Overview
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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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Instructor Materials: Overview of the Earth's Mineral Resources Module

Module Goal: Explain how and why managing mineral resources is a global challenge that depends both on geological (mineral-forming) processes and non-geological factors with various impacts on the environment and communities.

Summative Assessment: Learning in this module can be assessed by having students research and draw concept maps that link a specific mineral resource to the main tenets of the module. Overarching exam questions are also provided. Learn more about assessing student learning in this module.

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.

Module 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.

Pre-Unit 1 Pre-Module Mineral Concept Map Exercise Assessment

This pre-module assessment serves as an overarching assessment for this module. Students begin a concept map on a specific mineral early within the module (ideally with Unit 1), adding to it as their knowledge about the topic of Earth's mineral resources grows. It is due at the end of the module.

Unit 1 People, Products, and Minerals

Unit 1 introduces students to properties of minerals and the rock cycle within the context of their use as resources. The last section of this unit ties in the use of natural resources to population and development.

Unit 2 Boom and Bust: How Econ 101 Relates to Rocks

Unit 2 addresses economic and social factors influencing what and how many minerals are mined. Instructors can choose from two activities: working with rechargeable battery technologies or with global supply and demand topics surrounding rare earth elements (REEs).

Unit 3 Mining and Mining Impacts

Unit 3 introduces students to basic mining methods and processes as well as some of the impacts that mining has and can have, particularly when mining for metals.

Unit 4 Mineral Resources Created by Sedimentary Processes

Addresses sedimentary processes, and the sediments and sedimentary rocks used as mineral resources. Activities deal with clastic sedimentary processes and resources and chemical sedimentary rocks that are mineral resources.

Unit 5 Resources Created by Igneous and Metamorphic Processes

Unit 5 introduces students to the processes that result in the formation of igneous and metamorphic rocks, particularly those that create metallic resources through igneous processes.

Unit 6 Mining, Society, and Decision Making

Unit 6 contains case studies of particular mineral resources (phosphorus and gold) that each use data to present real situations with various societal and personal concerns and decisions. Both of these activities are jigsaws with different pre-class and in-class assignments for different groups. See the activity sheets for complete lists of materials.

Making the Module Work

The module was written so that each unit could be done in one 50-minute class period, or split and combined so that three units could be done in two 75-minute classes. The instructor can also adapt these to use within 2- or 3-hour lab periods, spending more time on activities or incorporating more of the optional activities. The module assumes that the classroom will be an active learning environment; there is little time for lecture, so students should use the available materials to prepare prior to class for the in-class, mostly group activities. Several of the units contain multiple activities and options and not all can be done within the confines of class. Instructors should either plan to have students complete some activities outside of class (as homework) or pick and choose the activities that best address their desired learning outcomes and time available in their own courses. Almost all of the module content could be adapted for an online learning environment as well.

To adapt all or part of the Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources module for your classroom, you will also want to read through:

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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 »