Activity Details




Students will

  • Get an introduction to the business of mining.
  • Learn about buying mining property and equipment, about mining operation cost, reclamation of mining property  and mining ore.
  • Learn to take decisions on which property to buy and which tools to use similar to those taken in the mining industry.
  • Attempt to learn how to run a profitable mining operation that is environmentally sound.



  • Play money, as the currency for the game
  • Large square graph paper, to represent the land on which mining is carried out
  • 3 different brands of chocolate chip cookies, as the different mining properties
  • Flat toothpicks, as a mining equipment
  • Round toothpicks, as another mining equipment
  • Paper clips, as a third mining equipment
  • Pencils, to trace the outline of cookies on graph paper



Rules of the game:

  • Each student starts with $19 of cookie mining money (play money).
  • Each student receives a sheet of graph paper.
  • Each student must buy his/her own “mining property”; ONLY ONE property (chocolate chip cookie) per student.
  • The different brands of “mining property” (cookies) for sale are:
    - Brand 1—$3.00
    - Brand 2—$5.00
    - Brand 3—$7.00
  • Mining equipment costs are:
    - Flat toothpick—$2.00
    - Round toothpick—$4.00
    - Paper clip—$6.00

Playing the game:

Purchasing and setting up mining property

  • Each student purchases a “mining property” (cookie) of a brand of his / her choice.
  • After the cookie is bought, the student places the cookie on the graph paper and using a pencil traces the outline of the cookie.
  • The student must then count each square that falls inside the circle.
    Note:Count squares that are one-half or more inside the circle as a full square. Do not count squares having less than one-half of their area inside the circle.
    Purchasing mining equipment
  • Next, each student must buy his/her own “mining equipment.”
  • More than one piece of equipment may be purchased.
    Note: Equipment may not be shared between players
    Mining process - Rules
  • The mining process involves removing the chocolate chips from the graph paper following the rules below:
    - No student can use his or her fingers to hold the cookie.
    - The only things that can touch the cookie are the mining tools and the paper the cookie is sitting on.
    - Students should be allowed a maximum of 5 minutes to “mine” their cookie.
    - Players that finish before the 5 minutes are up should only use the actual time spent “mining” to calculate mining cost ($1.00 per minute).
    -  A student can purchase as many mining tools as he or she desires, and the tools can be of different types.
    - If the mining tools break, they are no longer useable, and a new tool must be purchased.
    - Sale of the chocolate chips brings $2.00 per chip; broken chips can be combined to make 1 whole chip.
    - After the cookie has been “mined,” what is left of the cookie must be placed back into the circled area on the graph paper.
    - This can only be accomplished using the mining tools—no fingers or hands allowed.
    - Reclamation cost is $1.00 per graph-paper square.
    - Apply profit calculation: Revenue (chips mined at $2.00 each) minus Costs (property, tools, mining, and reclamation costs) = Profit.
    - The player with the largest net profit at the end of the game wins.
    - Actually all players WIN at the end, because all get to eat what’s left of their cookie!



Q1.Which cookie gives you the best return (profit) for your mining efforts?





Q2.What is the best mining equipment?





Q3.What is the total cost of reclamation?





Q4. Would you use different mining equipment with different types of cookies?





Q5.Is the type of equipment you use related to your mining cost?





Q6. What would you do if you owned properties with different types of resources (cookies)? What decisions would you make?





Q7.What economic choices did you make as you mined your property?





Teacher Notes



  • Foods are commonly used as instructional tools and in many hands-on activities presented here. A review of food use to demonstrate Earth-science concepts is presented by Francek and Winstanley (2004); however, they also note that there are potential problems associated with using food as an instructional tool. One of the main safety issues is that some foods, such as chocolate or peanut butter, could cause a student to have an allergic reaction. It is important that the instructor inform students and parents that you will be conducting a class activity that involves food, so that they can tell you if there are any health problems that should be addressed. Students with allergies to certain food groups may participate in the activities through observation, as long as their allergies are not induced by touch or smell of the food items used.
  • Remember, when doing any activity that involves the use of chemicals, be sure to use the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as gloves, safety glasses, and laboratory coats.


Tips and Tricks:


  • The process of finding or exploring for a mineral deposit, extracting or mining the resource, recovering the resource, also known as beneficiation, and reclaiming the land mined can be described as the “life cycle” of a mineral deposit.
  • Mineral deposits are the source of many important commodities, such as copper and gold, used by our society, but it is important to realize that mineral deposits are a nonrenewable resource. Once mined, they are exhausted, and another source must be found. New mineral deposits are being continuously created by the Earth but may take millions of years to form.
  • Mineral deposits differ from renewable resources, such as agricultural and timber products, which may be replenished within a few months to several years.
  • The technical definition of a mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic, homogeneous solid with a definite chemical composition and an ordered atomic arrangement. In more general terms, a mineral is a substance that is:
    (1) made of a single element like gold (Au) or a compound of elements like salt (NaCl) and/ or
    (2) a building block of rock (for example, granite is composed primarily of the minerals quartz and feldspar).
  • Minerals may be metallic, like gold, or nonmetallic, such as talc.
  • Oil, natural gas, and coal are generally considered to be “energy minerals” and are not discussed in this report.
  • A mineral deposit is a mineral occurrence of sufficient size and grade (concentration) to enable extraction under the most favorable conditions.
  • Two cycles determine how mineral deposits are formed— the ROCK CYCLE and the TECTONIC CYCLE.
  • Heat from the Earth’s interior melts some of the rocks in the crust (the upper part of the lithosphere).
  • Molten rocks lower in density than the surrounding cooler material rise toward the Earth’s surface and eventually cool and harden near to or on the surface.
  • The composition, temperature, pressure, and cooling process of the molten material determine the minerals and rock types formed.
  • These are called IGNEOUS ROCKS and contain original or primary minerals.
  • When these rocks are subjected to chemical and physical processes, such as freezing and thawing, they break apart into smaller fragments forming sediments.
  • These smaller particles that compose the sediments can be physically transported and re-deposited by gravity, water, and wind.
  • If the re-deposited particles are bound together by compaction or cementation (formation of new secondary minerals in the spaces between the loose particles), SEDIMENTARY ROCKS are formed.
  • In regions where the Earth’s interior temperature and pressure are high enough to change the chemical composition and mineralogy of buried igneous or sedimentary rocks, without completely melting them, METAMORPHIC ROCKS are formed.
  • Distinct groups or assemblages of minerals are typically associated with the formation of each of the three major rock types—igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
  • PLATE TECTONICS play a major role in the processes of mineral and rock formation.
  • In geologic terms, a plate is a large, “rigid” slab of solid rock.
  • The word tectonics comes from the Greek root “to build.”
  • The term plate tectonics refers to the process by which the Earth’s crust is formed and moved.
  • The theory of plate tectonics states that the Earth’s outermost layer, the crust, is fragmented into a dozen or more plates of various sizes that are moving relative to one another as they are slowly transported on top of and by hotter, more mobile material (Kious and Tilling, 1996).
  • Scientists now have a fairly good understanding of how the plates move and how earthquake activity relates to such movement.
  • Most movement occurs along narrow zones between plates where the effects of tectonic forces are most evident.

There are four types of plate boundaries:

  • Divergent boundaries—where new crust is generated as the plates pull away from each other.
  • Convergent boundaries—where crust is destroyed as one plate dives under another.
  • Transform boundaries—where crust is neither produced nor destroyed as the plates slide horizontally past each other.
  • Plate boundary zones—broad belts in which boundaries are not well defined and the effects of plate interaction are unclear (Kious and Tilling, 1996).

Hands-On Activities

  • This activity is one of a set of activities designed to educate students about geology, plate tectonics, and mineral resources and how mineral resources are found, extracted, processed, and used.
  • These activities are suited for the entire K-12 grade level range, but some may be best suited for the 5-8 or 9-12 grade levels (table 3). The activities are as follows:

Basic Geology—Concepts

Exploring for Minerals

Extracting Minerals

Uses of Minerals

Mineral Resources and Economics




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