Cookie Mining

Demonstrate the process of mining coal with this fun and edible game for your students!  This fun activity can connect concepts of natural resource management, earth sciences, and environmental science and explore the ways that humans extract natural resources.

In this activity, students will use different brands of cookies to simulate the processes of managing natural resources and “extract” chocolate chips for profit.

Grades: 6-8

What You’ll Need

  • 3 brands of chocolate chip cookies (vary in size and kind of chip)
  • toothpicks
  • paper clips
  • graph paper
  • pencils

Activity Preparation

Before you complete this activity with your students, you should establish the price of materials, the starting budget of each group, and the profit that each chip can provide. For example:

  • Cookie 1: $3, cookie 2: $5, cookie 3: $7
  • Toothpick: $2 apiece, paperclip: $4 apiece
  • Profit from chips: small chips: $3, large chips: $5

What to Do

  1. Arrange students into small groups of 3-4
    • Groups should be small enough to encourage team building and cooperation, but groups that are too big will be difficult to work with for this activity
  2. Provide each group with two sheets of paper. One sheet will be used to mine the cookie on and the other sheet will be used to track budgets and profits
  3. Allow each group to buy their first rounds of materials. Limit each group to one cookie for the first round and no more than one tool per group member
    • Allow groups to buy multiple cookies after the first round. Inform the class that resources are limited and this should be considered when purchasing materials. This can emphasize the competition over natural resources that occur when mining companies look for mining plots to purchase.
  4. Once groups have their materials and budgets balanced, begin the first round and set a timer for two minutes. Instruct groups that they have within the time limit to mine as many chips as they can.
  5. When each round is complete, go around to each table to count the number of intact chips. Instruct groups to record their profits for the round
  6. Allow groups to purchase another set of cookies and materials for the next round
  7. Repeat steps 3-6. The number of rounds can be determined by the teacher

Connecting Concepts (NGSS)

MS-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity

Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes.

  • DCI: A: Natural Resources
    • Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.

This activity can be incorporated in an earth science class as a part of an energy or natural resource unit. Beginning a unit with this activity can be a great way to engage students to the concepts and introduce them to the concept of natural resources. A discussion after completing this activity can be used to formally introduce students to the connecting concepts and be a fun demonstrating of mining or natural resource management. Plus, students can eat what they mine after they are done!

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