By using the common properties of minerals (Effervescence (reaction to acid), fluorescence, magnetism, density, streak, hardness, fracture, cleavage, color, and luster), students determine the identification of "unknown" minerals in this station lab.
Upon completing this lab students often express how much they enjoyed it, because they felt like "actual scientists".
Lab takes approximately 2-3 class periods
Formal Lesson Plan (Word doc. & pdf)
Mineral ID Set up Instructions & Suggestions (Word doc. & pdf)
Mineral Identification Key (3 pages- editable) (Word doc. & pdf)
Flow Chart for Mineral Hardness (2 versions) (Word doc. & pdf)
Lab Station Signs (14 sheets) (PowerPoint)
Mineral Identification Lab including discussion questions (student handout)- 6 pages (Word doc. & pdf)
Bell Ringer (3 options)
Closure Questions (found on lesson plan)
Before this lesson, students should already be familiar with what minerals are and what a crystal is. Ideally they should have had instruction on the properties of minerals used in identification prior to this lab. The Properties of Minerals Investigation can be used as an activity or a Power Point Presentation & Notes to provide students with this information. Link-Properties of Minerals Investigation
This lab can still be done successfully if students have not yet learned about the properties, but I think that students learn the material better if they have had a prior lesson on the properties of minerals.
Additional Materials Required:
9 Sets each (one set for each of the 9 stations) of any of the following minerals. Choose 5 different ones for your unknown samples: Talc, Graphite, Gypsum, Muscovite, Halite*, Calcite, Fluorite, Apatite, Hematite, Magnetite, Microcline, Pyrite, Olivine, Quartz, Topaz, Corundum.
Example: My usual unknown minerals are quartz, calcite, magnetite, fluorite and talc. I would need 9 quartz samples, 9 calcite samples, 9 magnetite samples, 9 fluorite samples and 9 talc samples for this lab.
*I personally do not like to use Halite, because it will dissolve in water and you will have to constantly replace it.
Diluted HCl (hydrochloric acid) in a dropper bottle
Rubber gloves, goggles, and lab aprons (at least two of each)
Sink or basin/bucket & Water
Dark area, dark room, or refrigerator box or other large box and duct tape
White out or white nail polish and fine tipped sharpie, if mineral samples are not labeled with numbers or letters.
Scale for measuring mass in grams, either electronic or triple-beam balance
Graduated cylinder that is large enough for the mineral samples to fit easily into (only if you would like students to calculate density)
Calculator (at least 1)
Streak Tile (preferably both black and white)- at least 2, but more is better.
Several Copper Pennies
Several regular nails
Glass test plates (or baby food jars)
Mineral Identification Lab
by ACQUIRE Lesson Plans
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License