The different elements found in earth's crust come with their own, unique properties. Making projects on minerals helps understand their properties and the changes which take place in their structure over time. Children can think of making many different rock and mineral identification projects; however, for students from middle school, the level of difficulty of projects should not be too high. The mineral project ideas for kids given in this article are easy. Let's start with the simplest of all.
Formation of Metamorphic Rocks
The process of metamorphic rock formation can be represented by this simple project. Modeling clay, wax paper and books (for applying weight) are required for this project. Choose different colors of modeling clay to make the different particles of rock-models.
First of all, make models of metamorphic rocks with clay. Place these particles on a wax paper. Use another wax paper to cover these clay particles. Now, place books on the second wax paper which covers these clay particles. You would observe that the particles get pressed under the weight of books and begin to compress. After a while, remove the books and wax paper from above the clay particles. The changed structure of clay models explain the process of formation of metamorphic rocks. Heating and compression or rocks is responsible for metamorphic rock formation.
Mineral Testing Kit
A testing kit for minerals allows to check the hardness and presence of calcium carbonate in rocks. It is one of the interesting as well as easy to perform mineral projects for middle school students. The items which together constitute a mineral testing kit are vinegar, a penny, knife, pocket knife, unglazed tile, piece of glass, eyedropper and different types of rocks.
The presence of calcium carbonate in rocks is tested by dropping a little vinegar on the surface of rocks. Signs of existence of calcium carbonate are observed in the form of fizzing reaction. In order to check the hardness of rocks, you have to scratch them with the tools mentioned above. A scale of 0-10 is used in the measurement of hardness. For example, if you are able to scratch the rock sample just by your fingers, then its hardness fall in the range of 1-2. A rock with the hardness of 3 can be scratched with a penny. You would need a knife to make scratches in rocks with hardness between 4 and 5. Those rocks with a hardness level above '6' can only be scratched with glass. Finally, the hardest of all rocks lies above the hardness level of 8. These rocks cannot be scratched by any of the tools in our testing kit; instead, such rocks possess the hardness that is capable of scratching the surface of glass.
Epsom Salt Crystals Project
This project involves creation of crystalline structures of Epsom salt; it is one of the fun projects. You will have to work with hot water and therefore, the guidance of elders is necessary. The materials required for this project are as follows: Epsom salt, water, saucepan (for heating water), pennies, strings, spoon, bottle caps (2-3), and food color.
Take 1 cup of water and pour it in a saucepan. Heat the water near to its boiling point and then add Epsom salts to it. The quantity of Epsom salts to be added to the boiling water is around 1 cup. However, the salt need to be added with a spoon and not all at once. The idea is to saturate water with the salts slowly. Stop the heating process after the solution becomes completely saturated.
Stir the solution and add 2-3 drops of food color while it cools down. Pour the saturated solution into bottle caps. Now take the strings and place them in bottle caps. The strings would just float on the water surface as their density is (obviously) lesser than that of the saturated solution. To overcome this problem, you can make use of pennies to weigh down the strings. Let the saturated solution to cool down. The solution poured in bottle caps should be left for cooling for few weeks. You can observe crystal growth in the bottle caps after this 'short' waiting period. The crystals would harden around the string so that you can lift them out of the cap along with the string. It is a nice experiment for middle school kids to understand how crystals are formed.
Dolostone and limestone are minerals responsible for the formation of speleothems. The speleothems are found in solutional caves. For this project, you can take snaps of speleothems. Attaching pictures to your project work adds to the credibility. You can think of making charts or journal explaining the process of speleothem formation.
These are only a few of mineral projects for middle school. There are many such ideas that children can make use of, for their project work. These ideas and project activities should help increase the understanding of rocks and minerals for kids. It is not just the project work, but the understanding of scientific concepts that allow children to understand this whole activity.