What is Mining? An introduction to Mining



  • Google Slides 2018 (Public) – with updated maps April 2018
  • Google Slides 2016 (Public) – this presentation will outline what mining is, where it occurs, types of mines, what commodities are mined in the United States, and covers mining in New Jersey. Maps are from the CDC
  • What is mining?  (pdf) – this is a guided handout that students will take notes on as we discuss mining
  • Sterling Hill Mining Museum – this has been an annual field trip for our school for around 30 years. Their mineral collection is amazing!

Videos: These are also available on Netflix – updated April 2018

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining Simulation

Cookie Mining – with an example of cookies used for the activity.


This is one of my favorite activities from our minerals and mining unit. It takes about 1 whole class period to explain the activity, collect data, eat the cookie (& crumbs), and clean up. We discuss our results the next class and determine who made the most profit.

When determining the value of the chocolate ore, I have the students place their chocolate pieces close together in one area of the map. When they are done, I go around and circle the area of chocolate and give their chocolate a rating. They count the number of boxes their chocolate covers and enter it into their spreadsheet.

If there are crumbs attached to the chocolate, I call that ‘slag’ and it lowers the value of the chocolate ore. This leads to a great discussion afterwards when we compare the profits and talk about land use. Is it better to get out as much chocolate as you can, even if you get a lot of slag, or is it better to remove just the chocolate even though you will have less in the end? How is this similar to coal mining? Diamond mining?

Students try different techniques to extract the chocolate.
Cookie blasting – extracting as much chocolate as you can in 5 minutes.


Photographs by Lewis Hine – Child Labor in America

Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker of Pennsylvania Coal Co. Source: Library of Congress. Photo by Lewis Hine

Updated August 2016

As part our Mining and Minerals unit, we discuss the impact of obtaining natural resources and their effects on the environment. We look back at the Second Industrial Revolution and the impact it had not only on the environment, but on society as well. Children were working in mines, factories, and farms under dangerous conditions. Because they were working long hours in order to earn money for their families, they were not able to attend school. We then discuss the factors that lead to child labor, do they still exist today? Unfortunately, child labor still exists in many countries for the same reasons it did at the start of the 20th century, when Lewis Hine took these photographs.

Lewis Hine Photography – Child Labor


  • To analyze primary sources (photographs) related to child labor
  • To learn how Lewis Hine brought awareness to the issue of child labor
  • To explore the factors that contributed to child labor
  • To write a piece of historical fiction inspired by one of Lewis Hine’s photographs


Google Slides

  • Students will select 1-2 photographs for their assigned category
  • Students will analyze each photograph using the Photo Analysis Sheet
  • Each group will create one presentation containing their slides and photographs
  • Groups will share their presentations & story excerpts with the class

Subject: Coal Mining  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=lewis+hine+%2B+mine&st=gallery

  • Student 1 – pictures of a solitary child (if 3 people in group, combine topic with Student 4)
  • Student 2 – pictures of groups of children
  • Student 3 – pictures of boys and men mining
  • Student 4 – pictures of buildings, machinery, tools, or animals at the mine

Photographs by Lewis Hine - Examples 2016

“I miss Poland and my old life there. I went to school and learned to read and write. I could even struggle through a few English words. After school, I would race down the dusty gravel road to my small yard. My father built a tree house out of scrap wood he brought back from the shop. We hung a tire swing from it. My dad would push me everyday, I miss him so much.”

Subject: Factory Workers or Urban Setting  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=lewis%20hine%20%2B%20factory&st=gallery

  • Student 1 – pictures of a solitary child (if 3 people in group, combine topic with Student 4)
  • Student 2 – pictures of groups of children
  • Student 3 – pictures of adults and children working side by side
  • Student 4 – pictures of buildings, industrial settings,  & machinery

Photographs by Lewis Hine - Examples 2016 (1)

“… ‘Am I payin’ you too much?! Because I can change that.’

‘No sir, we are working.’

‘OK good, because I ain’t be wastin’ my time on hirin’ someone new’…”

Subject: Farm Labor or Food Industry http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=lewis%20hine%20%2B%20farm&st=gallery

  • Student 1 – pictures of a solitary child (if 3 people in group, combine topic with Student 4)
  • Student 2 – pictures of groups of children
  • Student 3 – pictures of adults and children working side by side
  • Student 4 – pictures of buildings, machinery, & farm animals

Photographs by Lewis Hine - Examples 2016 (2)

“It gets darker and darker every day, but we are holding up. Sometimes I wish that we never left Ireland. It was so much easier there. Ah,well…thinking about everything back home will only make me sad.”

Subject: Family Life http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=family&co=nclc&st=gallery

  • Student 1 – pictures of a siblings working together
  • Student 2 – pictures of a child/siblings working with parent(s)
  • Student 3 – pictures of families at home
  • Student 4 – pictures of families working in a factory, farming, or using machinery

Photographs by Lewis Hine - Examples 2016 (3).jpg

“Day 5: Family. I am the youngest of nine children. We are all one year apart. In 1918 we sailed over from Italy.”


Students will write a journal entry or personal letter (¾ to 1 page) based on one of the photographs they have chosen. They will share their stories along with the photograph they chose for their slide. Samples of writing above are from the Class of 2017.



Environmental Issues Research and Presentation

Image Credit: NASA
Image Credit: NASA

Earlier in the school year, to cap off our unit on the environment, my 6th graders completed an environmental issues research project and  presentation. This project was a great opportunity for the students to demonstrate both their public speaking and tech skills, as well as provide a forum for student-directed learning. Each student had a chance to teach their peers about their topic and lead a demonstration or activity related to their environmental issue. They did a fantastic job and came up with activities that really enhanced their presentations. The students were engaged and supportive of their peers.

Just a few examples of their demonstrations/activities: 

  • Noise Pollution – using a decibel app, one student asked the class to take part in different activities and monitored the noise level. The student then compared the noise level in the classroom to their equivalents such as jack hammers or traffic.
  • Garbage Patch – using a tray with an ocean/coastal scene decorated with items attached to magnets, one student demonstrated how gyres in the Pacific Ocean move plastics from the coast to the Great Garbage Patch by sliding magnets under the tray.
  • Poaching – each student took part in a role-playing game modeled after “Assassin/Spy”. Each student was given a role card (such as an elephant, tiger, or poacher). As they played the game, students had to find the poacher to save as many animals as they could.


  • List of 50 environmental issue topics (pdf)
  • Detailed project requirements (pdf)
  • Peer review sheet (pdf)
    • this was for personal note taking, not shared with the presenter


  • Day 1 – Introduction and pre-research, students pick their top 10 choices
  • Day 2 – Students pick topics and brainstorm 10 guiding questions to help guide their research
  • Day 3 – Discussion in small groups, students share questions and modify
  • Days 4 to 7 – Research phase
  • Days 8 to end – Students present topics