Children are fascinated by minerals because they are
pretty and uncommon in everyday life. Children like to hold them, as if they
were magical. You can pick up a mineral and it feels cold, but if you keep
it in your hand, it gets warm. Many minerals also have shapes that delight
children’s visual perception.
Minerals are composed of one or more elements. Since
there are many elements, many combinations are possible. There are thousands
of different minerals. Minerals are important in a number of ways. Minerals
are the building blocks of rocks. They are important to the world’s
economy. Minerals such as gold and silver can determine the wealth of a
nation. Other minerals are admired because of their beauty, such as rubies
and emeralds. Finally, minerals are very useful in everyday objects such as
watches and clocks (quartz) and plaster (gypsum).
- In this lesson students will learn that minerals are made up of
different combinations of elements, which they will learn are called
compounds. Tell the children that minerals are an example of solid state
matter. They are not liquids or gases. They have definite shapes. Matter
is made up of elements. One or more elements make up minerals.
- Introduce the word "COMPOUND," as a substance composed of
one or more elements.
Write on the boards ELEMENT + ELEMENT(S) = COMPOUND. Use a quartz
crystal as an example of a compound. Explain to the students that the
crystal grew naturally in the earth. The elements silicon (Si) and
oxygen (O) joined together [silicon + oxygen] to make QUARTZ (SiO2).
Pass the crystal around so the students can see how it looks and feels.
Write down their impressions of this mineral on the board.
- Retrieve quartz crystal from the class and pass out the Periodic Table
Place mats. Ask the students if they remember which elements make up the
compound quartz. Have the students locate the elements
"silicon" and "oxygen" on the place mats.
- Silicon by itself is a shiny, gray substance. Show students the piece
of silicon. This is an element that was created in a laboratory. It does
not occur naturally. Compare silicon with quartz. It doesn’t have the
same appearance. Ask the students to show you oxygen. Hopefully they
will point to the air. Oxygen is a clear gas. Together these very
different elements combine to form quartz. A solid and a gas form a
Children may have heard the word "silicon" in association
with the computer industry. (Computer chips are presently made largely
of silicon). Pure silicon is not a naturally occurring element. Silicon
occurs in nature only in combination with other elements, mainly oxygen.
Pure silicon is manufactured commercially by heating sand in the
presence of carbon.
- Use the periodic table placemat to examine different elements. Ask the
students to find elements, like calcium, carbon, or boron. You may want
the students to write down the symbols. You may wish to play a
"chemical game," having the students find an element that
goes with the alphabet like, Arsenic for A, Boron for B, Carbon for C,
etc. Students love to find the elements on the chart.