Ore to Store Mini-Project

April 21, 2017 at 2:16 PM Leave a comment

Well finally, a new mini-project in geology that has that magic mix of student engagement and academic focus, after the usual false starts and the backdrop of mild panic because sshh, I took my last geology class at age 16. Not saying how long ago that was, although you could walk to London from New York back then.

What’s your favorite ‘thing’? – the kick-off question. We started with the coolness and positive benefits of their favorite product. Instant chatter about cell phone brands and features, their favorite kinds of cars, bikes, consoles, some jewelry they were wearing and art supplies. Thinking about the benefits, the convenience and the pleasure their favorite things bring them.


The high energy opener motivated them to dig deeper: Where does it come from?  What is the ‘true cost’ of your thing?

‘True cost” can be so preachy: Conflict minerals and the awfulness of mining Tantalum in the Congo, the rape of poor countries by large corporations (the ‘resource curse’), the crazy harsh and beautiful pictures of open pit gold mining by Salvador Salgado, Appalachian mountain top removal and on and on. I feel really strongly about all of this.  It’s a fresh surprise every time I watch their faces close down as I try to preach to them. Dang, self-righteousness is so satisfying and yet not motivating. So I have to make myself let them discover these ideas for themselves, even if not at the depth and horror that I might feel.

I set up a slide show template that guided them through, trying hard to keep it fairly simple and focussed. Here it is. We used the beautiful new Chrome books that can stand by themselves. So excited to have these. Easier to use with Google than the iPads.

Framed the research as detective work and sat with students as they figured out how to phrase search terms and decide which resources online were relevant, reliable and understandable.  It’s such a vital skill for them to develop so I did not provide too many curated sites to start with, and why most of this was done in class, not for homework.

The final product was an electronic ‘poster session’ modeled on what adults do at conferences. Students got 10 minutes to suggest improvements on a neighbors slides, 10 minutes to polish up their presentation and then they organized the computers around similar products and circulated – watch a show then write one thing they learned from it.


At the end, what did they notice coming up over and over? That metal extraction and refining is a dangerous process for people and the environment, that any manufactured product has parts from all over the world and that trade and political relationships with distant countries can have real effects on our most prized possessions.

Here are the detailed lesson plans if you are interested in trying this yourself. Go to April 2017 calendar.

Entry filed under: Critical Thinking, Earth Science, Ore to Store mini project, Research Skills, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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