MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Discovering the Effect Mining has on Land

Discovering the Effect Mining has on Land

Debra Olson Faithful Shepherd Catholic School, Eagan, MN, based on an original activity from Prentice Hall Science Explorer: Environmental Science, p. 116.
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In this environmental science lesson, students will investigate how land is used for mining. Students will mine for their "ore" and observe damage to the surrounding land. Students will then have the opportunity to reclaim the land by filling in the holes and they will observe how the land has changed. The students can also make predictions of what the newly reclaimed land will look like in the future.

Learning Goals

Learning Goals:
1) This activity is designed for students to practice their observation skills.
2) This activity is designed for students to improve higher order thinking skills by analyzing their models and making predictions about human actions and the natural environment.
3) This activity is designed for students to utilize a model to predict natural occurrences.

2-3 Key concepts:
1) Students will discover how mining changes the land.
2) Students will demonstrate land reclamation.
3) Students will discover why the reclaimed land is not as good as the original untouched land.

2-5 Vocabulary words:
-land reclamation

Context for Use

This investigation is typically done with 8th graders working in pairs or alone. The directions, investigation, and concluding discussion can be done in a 40 minute class period. The only equipment necessary is tooth picks, chocolate chip cookies, and a paper towel to work on. This activity is done during an environment science unit, specifically learning about soil layers, land use, or environmental issues. The students should be aware of the difference between conservation and preservation. This activity can easily be done in any classroom.

Subject: Environmental Science:Mineral Resources:Mining, Geoscience
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: Middle (6-8)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Minerals, Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Problem Solving, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:K12

Description and Teaching Materials

Each student needs:
1 chocolate chip cookie
1 paper towel
2 tooth picks, rounded end

1) Discuss land and soil conservation with students. Discuss ways land can be used for human gain such as agriculture, mining, and development. Discuss layers of soil and their characteristics.

2) Instruct students to obtain supplies (from list above) and set up notebooks for a scientific investigation. Explain that we will look at the effects mining has on land. This is a good time to explain that this experiment involves food. Remind students to wipe the tables, wash hands, and do not eat any of the food until the entire investigation is done.

3) Instruct students to remove as many chocolate chips as they can, using only the toothpicks. The goal is to remove as many whole chips as possible. Remind them to keep all pieces of the cookie on paper towel.

4) Have the students draw and label 2 pictures, a picture of the whole cookie, and a picture of the cookie what they think it will look like when they are done removing the chips. Give students a few minutes to draw their pictures and begin removing the chips.

5) Stop students from "mining" chips and have them draw and label their cookie after the chips have been removed.

6) Give students an opportunity to look at each others' mined cookies.

7) Explain land reclamation, and have students try to put their cookie back together. Have students draw a picture and describe the cookie after it is reclaimed. Have students glance at their classmates' reclaimed cookies. Have students record 2 sentences about the environmental implications of mining.

8) Instruct students to clean up and they have permission to eat the cookie.

9) Discuss as a class what the reclaimed cookies were like. Imagine if the cookie represented soil. What would happen to the soil? (erosion, wind and water) How can that be prevented? (planting trees and grasses, roots anchor the soil) Is land reclamation always possible? Why or Why not?

Teaching Notes and Tips

It may be helpful to pass out cookies with plastic glove, rather than having the students pick them up. It's always a good idea to check for student food allergies. Chips Ahoy or other crisp chocolate chip cookies work best. The softer cookies don't always sustain enough damage to see results easily. This activity focuses on practicing the students' observation skills when using the simple model.


Notebook entries: Hypothesis Drawing, Observable Data Drawing, Conclusion Drawing, Statements about the environmental implications of mining.


8.I.A.1. explain how science can be used to make informed ethical decisions by identifying likely consequences of particular actions
8.I.A.2. discover the usefulness and limitations of models in explaining and predicting natural phenomena
8.III.A. investigate the impact humans have on the environment

References and Resources