InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources > Unit 6: Mining, Society, and Decision Making
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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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Unit 6: Mining, Society, and Decision Making

Joy Branlund (Southwestern Illinois College)
Leah Joseph (Ursinus College)

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

In this unit, students explore a specific mineral resource (either phosphorus or gold) in depth, investigating the costs and benefits of mining, processing, and use. This unit builds on concepts from previous units.

Learning Goals

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  • Describe how different stages of mineral resource extraction and use (mining, beneficiation, production, consumption, and/or disposal) affect land use; pollute land, air, and/or water; and create wastes, and discuss how waste products are/can be managed.
  • Identify stakeholders, explain their viewpoints, and weigh their diverse views in determining if, how, and where to mine and use particular mineral resources.
  • Make informed predictions of future supply, demand, and impacts of using the mineral resource, based on (a) population change, (b) technology change, and (c) people's choices, specifically addressing how personal choices impact resource sustainability.

Context for Use

This unit is intended to be the capstone for the Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources module, incorporating material learned about growing mineral resource demand, economics driving mining, mineral extraction, and rock-forming processes. However, the unit can also be completed as a stand-alone activity.

Description and Teaching Materials

Pre-class Work

Pre-class work involves reading assignments and/or homework assignments as described in the individual activity pages (click the links below for Option 1: Phosphorus Activity, or Option 2: Gold Mining Activity).

In-class Work

Instructors should pick one of the activities below. Both activities are jigsaws and cover diverse aspects of the extraction, processing, use, and/or disposal processes, and impacts for a given mineral resource (either phosphorus or gold). Instructors should pick the activity that seems most interesting or relevant to their course, as they both address the learning outcomes. For more information on jigsaws as teaching techniques, please see: https://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/jigsaws/index.html.

Option 1: Phosphorus Activity

Phosphorus is a nutrient required for life and as such is an important ingredient in chemical fertilizers. During this in-class activity, students participate in a jigsaw activity, working in four groups on individual aspects of phosphate mining and use. They then rearrange into final groups, with at least one person from each of the four groups. In these groups, students try to make some overarching conclusions about phosphate use and mining. To prepare for class, students will have read about phosphorus and phosphate mining.

Option 2: Gold Mining Activity

In this activity, students investigate different aspects of gold mining and think critically about the perceived and real needs for this mineral resource as well as the impacts (positive and negative) that both gold mining and recycling can have. It integrates concepts and terminology from earlier in the course into real-world situations and personal decision making. This exercise is also designed as a jigsaw activity (as described for the phosphorus activity above). Students should complete the assigned pre-class reading prior to coming to class.

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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 »