• Audience
    Secondary school
  • Learning stage
    Stage 4, Stage 5
  • Learning area
    English, Science, Technology
  • Type
    Learning journey, Teaching resources

On this page...

Learning journeys offer a scaffolded approach to exploring a topic both in the classroom and at the Museum. Follow our learning journey to deepen your students’ knowledge and understanding of minerals.

The Australian Museum Mineralogy and Petrology collection consists of 79,745 registered specimens: 60, 475 minerals and 19,270 rocks (including 755 meteorites).

The collection is the oldest rock and mineral collection in Australia. The mineral component is the largest of any Australian collection; and the meteorite collection is the oldest and second largest in the country.

About 35% of the collection is from NSW, 25% from other Australian states and Antarctica, and 40% from overseas.

Special features of the collection include: zeolite minerals, gemstones, Australian meteorites and tektites, the Sir Douglas Mawson Antarctic collection, the Albert Chapman mineral collection, and suites of eastern Australia mantle and crustal xenoliths from volcanic rocks.

Key messages:

  • There exists a great diversity of rocks and minerals on Earth.
  • We use rocks and minerals in everyday life.
  • Rocks and minerals are fascinating and can help us learn about our planet.

Through this learning journey, students will:

  • Investigate how rocks and minerals are used.
  • Explore the properties of minerals.
  • Identify and examine different rock types.
  • Engage with Minerals exhibition content.
  • Design an experiment that explores the formation of crystals.
  • Create a multimedia presentation that celebrates their learning about minerals.

NSW syllabus outcomes: SC4-12ES, SC4-13ES, SC4-4WS, SC4-5WS, SC4-6WS, SC4-7WS, SC4-9WS, MA4-17MG, EN4-5C, EN4-4B, EN4-2A, SC5-12ES, SC5-13ES, SC5-4WS, SC5-5WS, SC5-6WS, SC5-7WS, SC5-9WS, EN5-4B, EN5-5C, EN5-2A.

Prepare your students

  • An Acknowledgement of Country is a statement that pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the Country that you are learning or meeting on and recognises their ongoing relationship with Country. The Australian Museum respects and acknowledges the Gadigal people as the Custodians of the land on which the Museum stands.

    Which First Nations Country or Nation was your school built upon? If you are unsure contact a local First Nations organisation to find out. You might like to start with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.

    Ask your students to write an Acknowledgement of Country for your school. To get them started, read more about why an Acknowledgement of Country is important and how to write one in this ABC article.

  • Minerals A-Z

    Work with a partner to name a rock or mineral starting with each letter of the alphabet. (Example: Amethyst, Beryl, Calcite, Diamond).

    Chapman Collection composite 01
    Chapman Collection composite 01 Left to right. Top: Erythrite, Mt Cobalt, Selwyn, Queensland, Australia. 7.5 x 6.5 x 3.9 cm. D.50529. Scheelite on quartz, Nundle, New South Wales, Australia. 5 x 5 x 4.9 cm. D.50635. Adamite, Ojuela Mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico. 6 x 4 x 3.4 cm. D.50565. Centre: Orthoclase feldspar (lead-bearing), South Mine, Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia. 10 x 8 x 4.6 cm. D.49930. )image by Ric Bolzan) Smithsonite, Socorro Country, New Mexico, USA. 14 x 12 x 8.6 cm. D.50131. Stibnite with baryte, Baia Sprie, Romania. 11.5 x 7 x 3.6 cm. D.50454. Below: Adamite on limonite, Ojuela Mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico. 8 x 4 x 4.8 cm. D.50517. Crocoite, Adelaide Mine, Dundas, Tasmania, Australia. 10 x 7.1 x 5 cm. D.50680. Legrandite, Ojuela Mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico. 6.5 x 5 x 3.3 cm. D.50566. Image: Carl Bento
    © Australian Museum

    How did you go?

    What questions did you have as you were putting your list together? Record all your wonderings. (Example, what is the difference between a rock and mineral?).

  • Mineralogists are scientists who specialise in the study of minerals. Petrologists study rocks from Earth and beyond.

    Learn about what defines a rock and mineral in this video.

    Now, answer the question: gems, minerals, crystals and rocks– what's the difference?

  • Many Minerals

    Watch the video How many minerals does Earth have? to learn about the evolution of minerals on Earth.

    As you watch, identify the causes of Earth’s mineral diversity.

    Mobile minerals

    Read A World of Minerals in your Mobile Device.

    FrogID app
    FrogID app Image: Unknown
    © Australian Museum

    Minerals are used for many purposes including electronics, building materials, makeup, agriculture, and medicines.

    Make a digital collage that illustrates the ways in which humans use rocks and minerals. Consider both past and present-day uses.

    Start by researching the connections between people and minerals.

    You may like to use some of your own images as well as print and online images. (Just be sure to use your own imagery if you choose to share your final product publicly).

  • Mineral properties

    Take a close, slow look at some different minerals. (Specimens are best but you could try this activity with pictures).

    Feel free to investigate with a magnifying glass or microscope and make a note of your observations.

    Compare and contrast your specimens. What characteristics vary between the minerals you have? (Example, shape).

    What tests would you run on your minerals to learn more about them? Record your curiosities.

    Read Identifying Minerals by Geoscience Australia to find out about the properties of minerals.

    Go back to your observations. Did you identify colour, transparency, lustre or crystal shape?

    Go back to your curiosities. Were you wondering about the properties of minerals?

    With a small group of classmates, design a scientific procedure for investigating the following properties of your minerals: streak, conductivity, magnetism, fluorescence, effervescence and hardness.

    Refer back to the page above for clues about how to test these mineral properties. You may also like to conduct your own test based on a question you noted earlier.

    Remember to be creative. For example, use a variety of magnets, magnetic objects (e.g., paperclip) and a compass to test for magnetism. Remember to be safe. For example, use vinegar, gloves and safety glasses to test for effervescence.

    Crystal systems

    Grab a magnifying glass and look carefully at some… salt. Notice the surfaces, faces, and edges of the salt crystals.

    Crystals are solids that have an orderly arrangement of atoms. The arrangement is also repeated as the crystal grows, that is, as more atoms are added. Different arrangements result in different shaped crystals.

    How would you describe the shape of the salt crystals?

    The main crystal systems, or groups, can be found here.

    What crystal system do you think salt belongs to?

    Challenge: Put your mathematical skills to the test and make a net of each crystal system.

    Crystals need time and room to grow. Temperature, chemical conditions and pressure also influence the crystal growth.

    Crafting crystals

    Though crystals aren’t alive, they are said to grow when more atoms are added.

    With a partner, design an experiment that explores crystal growth. (E.g., How does temperature effect crystal growth?).

    You will probably want to start by doing some research. Remember to keep a note of the sources you use so you can add them to your reference list later.

    When designing your experiment be sure to include the following:

    - Aim: What are you investigating?

    - Hypothesis: What do you think will happen?

    - Equipment: What materials will you need? *

    - Method: What steps you will follow? *

    - Variables:

    - What are you going to change (independent variable)?
    - What are you going to keep the same (controlled variables)?
    - What are you going to measure (dependent variable)?

    - Setup: How will you organise your experiment? **

    - Results: What happened? **

    - Discussion: Can you explain your results?

    - Conclusion: Can you summarise your investigation?

    - Reference list: What sources did you use for research before, after or during your investigation?

    *Safety equipment and procedures should be included here.

    **Diagrams, tables, graphs or photographs would be helpful here.

    Earth: inside and out

    Minerals are the building blocks of rocks. Rocks are aggregates of minerals. For example, granite is made up of at least three minerals: feldspar, quartz and mica. The different minerals, the percentage of those minerals, as well as their arrangement in a rock determines the name of the rock. However, as the chemical composition of a rock is not “set in stone”, all rocks are unique.

    Depending on how they are formed, rocks are classified into three main groups. Listen to geologist Ben Andrews describe the three types of rocks.

    Igneous rocks begin as hot magma (molten rock) inside the Earth. The rate at which the magma cools and solidifies as well as the mix of materials determines what type of rocks are made.

    What does Ben say about the differences between igneous rocks?

    Extrusive igneous rocks arrive at the surface through volcanic activity. In this video, volcanoes are described as “windows to Earth’s interior”. Why? Watch to find out!

    Water is one agent that breaks down (weathers) rocks and shells into sediments. Sediments are also moved (eroded) and set down (deposited) by water and wind. Sediments that have been compacted into rocks are called sedimentary rocks.

    What does Ben say about the formation of sedimentary rocks?

    Metamorphosis means “change”. Metamorphic rocks are rocks that have been changed by heat and pressure. Limestone, for example, can become marble.

    What does Ben say about “folding” in metamorphic rocks?

    Learn more about the formation of metamorphic rocks here.

    Now that you know about igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, have a go at creating a diagram that shows how each rock type is formed. (You may want to use labels, arrows or a key). Take a peek at the diagram below after creating your own.

    Earth’s surface is constantly changing. The rock cycle, illustrated below, describes the processes that make and change rocks.

    Illustration of the rock lifecycle
    Illustration of the rock lifecycle. Image: Australian Museum
    © Australian Museum

    Rock it!

    Collect a variety of interesting rocks with your class and carefully examine each one.

    Sort your collection into types: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Make sure your identification is evidence-based. (For example, consider the location the specimen was found and note grain sizes and shapes).

    Download a rock classification cheat sheet here.

At the Museum

  • Book an excursion to the Australian Museum and visit our Minerals gallery on Level 1.

    Read our tips on how to use our exhibitions.

  • During your visit, take plenty of photographs (no flash) of anything and everything you find interesting in the gallery. This might include your favourite specimens. You will use some of these images to complete the final project, so it is a good idea to capture your experience.

    Australian Gemstone group
    From left to right. Top: Fluorite, Rumsby’s Mine, The Gulf, Emmaville, NSW. 146.6 ct. D.52488. Corundum (sapphire), Tomahawk Creek, QLD. 12.3 ct. D.47930. Rhodonite, Broken Hill, NSW. 2.24 ct. D.52513. Centre: Diamond, Argyle Diamond Mine, Kimberley, WA. 0.3 ct. D.51489. Grossular garnet, Coggan Bore, Harts Range, NT. 2.5 ct. D.48516. Olivine (peridot), Cheviot Hills, Qld. 8.8 ct. D.47948. Below: Fluorite, Bundarra, New England, NSW. 437.4 ct. D.53019. Corundum (ruby), Inverell, New England, NSW. 2.1 ct. D.53068. (image by Gayle Sutherland) Andesine feldspar, Hogarth Range, NSW. 33.3 ct. D.42563. Image: Stuart Humphreys
    © Australian Museum

Back in the classroom

  • Museum Minerals

    With a partner, create an izi.Travel presentation about rocks and minerals.

    izi.Travel is a storytelling platform. Museums share stories as well through their collections. Now, it’s your turn to tell a story.

    Start by looking back at all your work and find out how to create an izi guide.

    Your presentation should be targeted towards people your own age. You will need to be both creative and informative to keep your audience interested!

    Include: subheadings/sections (e.g., What do minerals teach us about our Earth? How do we use them?); written text; audio; and images (you can use the photographs from your visit to the Australian Museum).

    Be sure to plan and draft your work before publishing. When you are finished, share your presentation with friends and family!

    Beryl (aquamarine)
    Beryl (aquamarine). Erongo Mountains, Karibib Constituency, Usakost District Erongo Region. Namibia. 11.3 x 19.7 x 13.6 cm. Registered 2022. D.60660. Image: Stuart Humphreys
    © Australian Museum