Using a Mineral Database for Classification

Teachers' Page

Copyright 1999 by James P. Riser


This activity was designed to present my students with the opportunity to:

Note: Students should already know how to create and use a database or this activity may be incorporated into a database training lesson.

Background info:

A database stores information in categories called fields. Each of these fields can be utilized as an element in a search of the entire database. If a database is set up properly, it can be used for mineral identification. In this activity, a database will be created and then used to attempt to classify several minerals.

One of the purposes of this activity is to give students practice using a database for a meaningful task - not to teach them how to set up the database. Consult the manual for this.

Teacher preparation:

As a teacher, you will need to provide your students with a selection of minerals. Use good specimens that will give the "typical" test results. The idea is for the students to be able to use the database to identify the minerals. Success here would be nice! You will need to provide all materials needed to perform the mineral tests (dilute acid dropper bottle, magnet, streak plate, etc.). You will want to set up a practice database so that you can help the students with theirs. Be certain that YOU can do it first! Also you will need to make reference materials available for the students.


A program like ClarisWorks or Microsoft Works will do the job quite well. These programs often come bundled with a new computer.


Using the database portion of the program, create a new database with these fields:

Into each of these fields must be input information for every mineral that will be identified. Be certain to spell everything correctly! In nature, this would be thousands of minerals. For practical uses in this activity, a much smaller range of information may be used. (Your instructor will have selected and obtained a group of minerals to be identified.)

(In addition, your instructor will provide you with a list of these minerals by name.)

Your students' task will be to locate information on each of these minerals and input the necessary information into their database. The source of information can be science textbooks, the internet, CD-ROMs, mineral books, and anything else available in your local library.

Once the information has been located and put it into the database, students are ready to attempt to use this database to identify the minerals.


In order to identify the minerals, students will need to understand the termonology being used for the various mineral tests. Each item (field name in the database) will be briefly explained.

Getting started:

It is now time to collect mineral information and to build the mineral database.

Suggested minerals to be supplied by the instructor:













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