Activity Details



Students will learn

  • That the Earth is made of materials that have distinct properties and provide resources for human activities
  • About the basic composition of a product (toothpaste) that they use on a daily basis




Making your Own Toothpaste

  • 3 colored antacid tablets, for grinding into powder
  • Small mortar and pestle, for grinding the antacid tablets
  • Small paper cup, for holding the ground antacid powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda, for mixing with the antacid powder
  • 3 to 4 drops of water, for mixing with the antacid powder
  • Toothpick, for stirring the mixture and making the paste

Researching Toothpastes

  • Containers of different brands / types of toothpastes, for studying the ingredients



Making your own Toothpaste

  • Grind 3 antacid tablets into powder using a mortar and pestle
  • Place powder in paper cup.
  • Add baking soda and water.
  • Stir using toothpick until a paste forms.

Researching Toothpastes

  • Study the ingredients listed on the toothpaste containers
  • Research antique toothpaste containers.



Q1.What ingredients are listed on a container of toothpaste?





Q2.How do the ingredients you used to make your own toothpaste compare with what is listed on the container of store bought toothpaste?





Q3.What are the active ingredients in toothpaste?





Q4.Was toothpaste always put into a tube container? Research antique toothpaste containers.





Teacher Notes


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

Pre-activity preparation

  • This activity can lead to a discussion of what products we use on a daily basis and the importance of minerals in our environment (refer to the following: Frank and others, 2001; Weathers and others, 2001).
  • Pick colored antacid  for making white, green, or pink toothpaste.
  • About 1 tsp of antacid powder would be required per student for this activity.
  • Coffee grinder will work for bulk grinding of the antacid tablets into powder.
  • Small plastic cups, like the kind you put ketchup in at fast-food restaurants, can be used instead of paper cups
  • The toothpaste containers used for research should display clearly the ingredients of the toothpaste.

Some information related to the Activity:

  • Antacid tablets contain silica and calcium carbonates, which work as abrasives keeping plaque from building up on teeth.
  • Calcium carbonate is derived from mined and processed limestone, and baking soda is obtained from the mineral trona.
  • When the right amount of water is combined with the powdered minerals, it forms a paste.
  • The average toothpaste purchased by consumers today contains some or all of the above ingredients.
  • The toothpaste tube contains aluminum, from bauxite, and plastics, derived from petroleum products.
  • Modern toothpaste was developed in the 1800s.
  • Soap was added to toothpaste in 1824.
  • By the 1850s, chalk was added to toothpaste.
  • Colgate was the first company to mass-produce toothpaste in jars.
  • The first collapsible tube of toothpaste was manufactured in 1896.



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