National Museum of Natural History


LILI Unit: National Museum of Natural History

Essential Question:
How is the value of a rock or mineral determined?
Pre-trip lesson:  In this unit, students study how the rock cycle continues to recycle and form new rocks over time.  They learn the difference between rocks and minerals and the mining processes needed to extract valuable resources from the Earth.  Students also learn how rocks and minerals are used in everyday life.  Through guided, hands-on experiments, students explore the crystalline shapes of minerals and also how gemstones are cut according to their atomic structures.  Students learn some of the properties used to identify minerals and apply that vocabulary to several mineral samples. Finally, students work with tangrams to develop a conceptual understanding of area.
Level of Difficulty:
Trip:   At the museum’s Discovery Lab, students participate in a mineral identification program.  In small groups, students observe and run tests on several unknown minerals, recording their findings.  Then, they identify each mineral by matching their discoveries to descriptions on a mineral chart.  In the galleries, students apply their knowledge of the rock cycle, mining, and gemstone cutting and setting through an interactive scavenger hunt and hands-on activities.
Academic Standards:

  • English Language Arts (CC.5.R.I.2; CC.5.L.4.b))
  • Science (6.7.1)
Post-trip lesson:   As a culminating activity, students learn how crystals are shaped according to polyhedral patterns and create three dimensional gemstones from two dimensional patterns.  They then set their completed gemstones in a jewelry setting and create a museum exhibition where each item provides a scientific and historical explanation.  Students also test their knowledge of the rock cycle as they compete in a collaborative review game and take written assessments.