Kanaga Volcano in Alaska

FAIRLY SIMPLE GEOLOGY EXERCISES

for

STUDENTS AND THEIR TEACHERS

 

Topics

Introduction

Classification

Fairly Simple Mineral Identification

Fairly Simple Rock Identification

Easy (and Cheap) Crystal Growing

Look at What Nature has Done

The Trickle Down Effect

Earthquake!

Locate-a-Quake

Terra Mobilis

Maps and Topography

Rock Crystallization

Oil Exploration

Cookie Mining

Porosity and Permeability

Groundwater Pollution Site Assessment

Bowen's Reaction Series

Gum Drop Crystal Models

Search-a-Word and Word Puzzles

 

FAIRLY SIMPLE MINERAL IDENTIFICATION EXERCISE

John J. Thomas

Purpose

       An exercise in the identification of minerals that uses minerals with very distinct characteristics. The students will learn the characteristics of minerals and the process of identification. They will practice with the properties one uses in mineral identification. They will also learn how to use a simple identification chart. This exercise is designed so that the student has success. The worksheet at the end can be done either by first identifying the minerals and then doing the worksheet or by skipping the actual identification and simply using the Mineral Identification Chart to fill in the worksheet.

Definitions

Hardness - how hard a mineral is.
Luster - the way a mineral reflects light.
Color - the color of a mineral.
Cleavage - the way a mineral splits.
Special Properties - characteristics special to a mineral.

Teacher Information

       This exercise is designed so that the student has SUCCESS. The minerals all have distinct properties. The only mineral descriptions on the Identification Chart are those of the minerals they (and you) will have in front of them.

       All of the definitions are probably strange to you. The following is a more detailed description of each of these properties and the techniques for testing them.

Hardness - how hard materials are. The hardness is defined by Moh's Scale of Hardness. Moh's scale uses ten common minerals ranging from talc (1, the softest) to diamond (10, the hardest). The steps from 1 to 10 are not a regular step scale (diamond is about 100 times as hard as the #9 mineral). There are hardness kits that can be used for testing hardness, but they are unnecessary. We have very nice testers around us:

Fingernail = 2 - 3 hardness (depending on your health. It usually is 2 1/2.
Copper penny = 3 1/2
Steel common nail = 5 1/2
Quartz crystal = 7

You test hardness by scribing the mineral the way you would draw a line. Run your fingernail along the mineral as though the mineral is hard fudge and your fingernail is a knife you are using to cut it. Don't pick at it. Then scratch across the cut line. If you scratched it with your hardness tester, you will feel a notch. The harder the mineral the more you may have to lean into it to scratch it. Don't be afraid! You will not hurt it. The ease of making a scratch lets you decide how hard the mineral is. For example, if you can scratch a mineral easily with your fingernail, it has hardness 1. If it is quite difficult to scratch, 2, not hard and not easy = 1 1/2. If you can just barely scratch the mineral, 2-2 1/2. Check yourself by seeing how hard it is to scratch the same mineral with the penny.

Luster - the way that anything reflects light. The scale that we use is a subjective one, but it is quite usable, especially at the opposite ends of the range. This exercise uses a simple one from the following examples:

Dull - no shine, like newly plowed earth
Waxy - a dull shine, like a block of wax
Metallic - bright and shiny like polished silverware
Glassy - bright, transparent shine like a newly polished window
Adamantine - deep, brilliant, multicolored, fire, like a diamond.

Color - exactly that. The color of the mineral. This is the least diagnostic characteristic of a mineral (sorry for the bad news). Quartz, for example, can be clear, white, gray (smoky quartz), almost black, purple (amethyst), green, yellow, and pink (rose). Sometimes color is the only thing you have to use. Streak, which is the color of the mineral when it is powdered, is always a correct color.

Cleavage - the way a mineral splits. Mica (biotite and muscovite) are excellent examples of this. Take a piece of mica and peel the sheets apart. This is cleavage. Watch the students with the mica or they will reduce your samples to a pile of very small flakes.

Special Properties - these are properties of minerals specific to one or two minerals. Examples are:

Taste - yes, geologists lick, smell, and bite minerals. The mineral halite is rock salt and tastes salty. Kaolinite on a fresh surface (scrape a clean surface) smells dusty. If you touch kaolinite with the tip of your tongue, it feels like it sticks, but is actually dried by kaolinite's love of any fluid. Chalk grinds on your teeth when you bite it.

Reaction to acid - calcite fizzes in warm, dilute hydrochloric acid (HC1). Dilute HC1 one part of acid to nine parts of water [always add acid to water]. Get a friendly high school chemistry or earth science teacher to mix some for you. Even simpler is to use vinegar (it is dilute acetic acid). If you use the acid test, you do it for your students. The acid is very mild, less acid than your stomach, but it melts synthetic clothes. After using the acid, wash the sample off under running water. For safety reasons you may want to get permission from your principal to use the acid.

Double refraction - Iceland spar, the transparent variety of calcite shows double refraction. Make a small dot on a piece of paper and put the Iceland spar on top of it. You will see two dots. Rotate the crystal and one will rotate around the other. One dot appears to be higher than the other. This may project nicely on an overhead projector.

Feel - Talc feels greasy.

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Materials

Minerals -

Biotite
Muscovite
Calcite and/or Dolomite
Galena
Gypsum
Halite
Kaolinite
Talc
Feldspar, Potassium Feldspar and/or Plagioclase
Quartz

Hardness Testers -

your fingernail (about 2)
penny (3)
common nail (carpenter type, 5-7)

Acid - dilute hydrochloric acid or vinegar

Optional - Iceland Spar crystal, quartz crystal

Identification Chart
Identification Sheet
Worksheet

Sources of materials - both of these suppliers are good, helpful, and quick. Their catalogs are free and are neat!

Ward's Natural Science Establishment, Inc.
P.O. Box 92912
Rochester, NY 14692-9012
800-962-2660

Geosciences Resources
2990 Anthony Rd.
Burlington, NC 27215
800-742-2677

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Student Exercise

       Give a sample of each of the minerals on the equipment list to your students (we usually let them work in pairs) and let them identify each of them. Give them each a copy of the identification chart and the identification sheet to help them with the identification. You will have to go over each of the properties of minerals so that they will understand them. Test the hardness of all of them. Do the luster of kaolinite (dull) and biotite (metallic). Have them describe the color of each. Let them split the biotite and learn what cleavage is. Show them some special properties such as the fizz of calcite. Let them feel talc, smell kaolinite, and taste halite. Then give them the worksheet and let them follow the trail of the geologist.

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MINERAL IDENTIFICATION CHART

Hardness
Luster
Color
Cleavage
Special Property
Mineral
1
Waxy
Light
Poor
Smooth, greasy feel
Talc
1 1/2
Dull
Light
Crumbly like chalk
Smells clayey on fresh surface
Kaolin
2
Waxy
Light
One good
Can be clear
Gypsum
2 1/2
Metallic
Lead
None
Occurs as cubes, Feels very heavy
Galena
2 1/2
Glassy
Clear
3, excellent, cubes (90 degrees)
Light, tastes salty
Halite
2 1/2
Metallic
Clear
1, excellent
Transparent, flakes
Muscovite
2 1/2
Metallic
Black
1, excellent
Transparent, flakes
Biotite
3
Glassy
Clear

3, excellent, in a rhombus (not 90 degrees)

Fizzes in dilute acid
Calcite
51/2 -
6 1/2
Glassy to pearly
Pink, green, white, light to very dark gray
2, good at right angles

Potassium feldspar is pink, green, and white to very light gray.

Plagioclase is white to very dark gray. Plagioclase has striations (small scratches or grooves) on one cleavage.

Potassium
Feldspar

 

Plagioclase

 

 

 

7
Glassy
Clear, white, pink, green, yellow, purple, smoky, gray
None.
Fractures like glass.
May be a perfect six sided crystal
Quartz

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MINERAL IDENTIFICATION SHEET

Mineral # ____
Hardness _______________________
Luster _________________________
Color __________________________
Cleavage _______________________
Special Properties ___________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
Mineral Name ___________________

Mineral # ____
Hardness _______________________
Luster _________________________
Color __________________________
Cleavage _______________________
Special Properties ___________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
Mineral Name ___________________

Mineral # ____
Hardness _______________________
Luster _________________________
Color __________________________
Cleavage _______________________
Special Properties ___________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
Mineral Name ___________________

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MINERAL WORKSHEET

Barbara R. Thomas

The last letter of one word becomes the first letter of the next word. Example: scratch heavy (scratch heavy). The number of spaces indicates the number of letters in the answer.

Clues

_ _ _ _ _ _  A gray mineral that is softer than a nail, but harder than a fingernail.

_ _ _ _  Makes calcite fizz.

_ _ _ _  Kaolinite does not shine. It is ________.

_ _ _ _ _  Kaolinite, talc, and gypsum are _______ colored.

_ _ _ _  A mineral that feels greasy.

_ _ _ _ _  Often used to tell minerals apart.

_ _ _ _ _  A geologist studies them.

_ _ _ _  Halite tastes like ________.

_ _ _ _  Biotite forms ________ sheets.

_ _ _ _  Used to test how hard a mineral is.

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MINERAL WORKSHEET ANSWER SHEET

Barbara R. Thomas

The last letter of one word becomes the first letter of the next word. Example: scratch heavy (scratch heavy). The number of spaces indicates the number of letters in the answer.

Clues

G A L E N A  A gray mineral that is softer than a nail, but harder than a fingernail.

A C I D  Makes calcite fizz.

D U L L  Kaolinite does not shine. It is ________.

L I G H T  Kaolinite, talc, and gypsum are ________ colored.

T A L C  A mineral that feels greasy.

C O L O R  Often used to tell minerals apart.

R O C K S  A geologist studies them.

S A L T  Halite tastes like ________.

T H I N  Biotite forms ________ sheets.

N A I L  Used to test how hard a mineral is.

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An Adobe® Acrobat® PDF® copy of Mineral Identification is available by clicking on the link.

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