Small children often learn best when they have a craft or activity to back up what they’ve learnt. Hands-on activities help children learn to visualise and connect information in their minds, aiding critical thinking skills. Kindergarten and first grade are the perfect place to set a precedent for this visualisation, especially when it comes to semi-complicated subjects like mining. Follow-up activities can help children remember why people mine and what comes out of mines.
During prehistory, ancient insects used to get caught and drown in tree sap. The sap hardened, the trees fell and decayed, but the sap remained and petrified into amber. Today, miners dig amber out of coal seams.
Children can make their own amber with glycerine pieces and plastic bugs. Melt some golden yellow glycerine in the microwave while children choose three or four plastic bugs and arrange them in a soap mould or cup. With the teacher’s help, each student pours melted glycerine over their bugs, trapping them like the sap. When the soap hardens, it acts like the sap hardening into amber.
Mini Mining Activity
This activity mimics, in miniature, what miners may need to do to release precious stones from the rock around them. Each student picks several items at random from a bag containing plastic jewels, fake bones and plastic gold nuggets. In groups of 3 or 4, the students can mix premeasured used coffee grounds, cold coffee, salt and flour to create a thick dough. Students divide the dough and push their treasures into the pieces, rolling them into little balls or pushing them into square moulds. Bake them on low heat until they dry, then give each student a random dough piece and some plastic tools. Students carefully release the treasures from the rocks.
Students can remember that coal comes from mines by making their own coal candy. Students pour premeasured amounts of granulated sugar, corn syrup, water and black paste food colouring into a non-stick saucepan. Cook the ingredients for about 15 minutes, then add food colouring. Anise makes liquorice flavoured candy, but students can vote on another flavour. Pour the candy onto waxed paper to cool. After placing the candy in a large, clean plastic container surrounded by a clean plastic tarp, students can take turns smashing the candy into coal pieces with a small rubber mallet. Pass out the candy for students to enjoy.