I remember my first year in science, lab day was always the most stressful part of my week. I felt like I was scrambling for ideas, and I had no idea what to do half the time. Luckily, I am older and wiser. These days I can honestly sit back (well, not too far back) and have fun watching my students engage in their activities. I hope to make this a weekly resource of ideas for those of you struggling to keep it together, or even if you just need something different than the same old tried and true lab ideas. Welcome to my new feature!
What’s in the Lab?
Grade Level: 3rd-8th | Duration: 45 minutes | Content: Minerals, Rocks, Conservation, Economy, Budgeting
Materials: 1 package of generic chocolate chip cookies, 1 package of Regular Chips Ahoy, 1 package of Chunky Chips Ahoy, flat toothpicks, round toothpicks, paper clips, graphing paper, paper towel, and an appetite.
Academic Vocabulary: minerals, mining, conservation, natural resources
This week we had benchmarks, so I did not lay the new content on too heavy. We recently finished minerals, types of rocks, and the rock cycle. Now we are dipping our toes into plate tectonics, so I decided to do a fun cross-curricular lab that straddles several concepts. Since I am in Texas, I base my lab off of this FREE resource from science-class.net. It gives some great background information about mining in Texas and environmental implications. There are several other free versions of this lab floating around the internet, but this one is pretty easy to modify if you aren’t a Texan! Just type up your own background information pertaining to your specific regions. OR better yet, turn it into a quickie research project for the students.
The Cookie Mining Lab is always a big hit because…well, what elementary student DOESN’T love cookies? Not only are we learning about minerals and resource conservation, but we are also brushing up on some real life math skills! I love getting to see how the students use their budget to purchase their “mines” and “mining tools”.
Students get a budget of $20 to purchase a mine and the tools to extract the minerals inside. They must also consider the cost of labor, time, land reclamation and environmental protection when analyzing their budget and potential profit. The team with the largest profit wins!
You will need three types of cookies to represent the mines your students will be excavating, and the chocolate chips contained inside will be your minerals. I have tried many types of cookies over the years,and the ones listed in the materials work great to represent your economy, average, and premium mine options.
After introducing the background information, allow the student teams about 5 minutes to brainstorm their purchases, then no more than 10 minutes for the actual excavation because you will need the extra time to balance budgets and determine profit or loss.
Good luck! I hope your kids love this as much as mine do. If you try this lab, be sure to come back and let me know how it goes!
NEXT: Read 10 Ways to Become a Better Science Teacher.
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