Skip to main content

Make Your Own Mineral Identification Kit

    My 7 year old daughter has been studying geology the last few weeks. We've taken several hikes and nature walks to try to find and photograph neat geologic features. We've also collected a few samples of cool rocks and minerals to try to identify.  

In this post I will explain how to put together your own mineral identification kit and how to use it to identify minerals you find on your adventures.

Make Your Own Mineral Identification Kit from the Barefoot Mom

   First you will need to gather up the supplies you will need (most of it is stuff you can find around the house):
-A small notebook
-A pencil
-A coin
-An iron nail
-A piece of glass (an old pocket mirror or works well)
-A ceramic tile
-A small water tight bottle or container
-Some vinegar
-A magnet 
-A magnifying glass
-A dropper (optional) 
-Rock and mineral guide (optional) 
-A small container or bag to keep it all in

   Fill the small water tight bottle with vinegar, this will be used for the acid test. Then put all your supplies into your bag or container. Your mineral identifying kit is now ready to use. Now you just have to go out and find some minerals or rocks to identify.

Rock hunting

   Once you've collected some minerals and rocks, you can get started identifying them. There are four tests you can do with the supplies in your kit. The results of these tests plus some simple observations will help you identify the mineral or minerals present in your sample.

The Hardness Test

     For the hardness test you will need your sample(s), the ceramic tile, the mirror, the iron nail, the coin, and your fingernail. The idea behind this test is a material harder than another will scratch the softer material. Using materials with a known hardness can help you find out the hardness of yoir sample. 

Moh's Hardness Scale for mineral identification

   Start with your fingernail and see if you can scratch your sample. Your fingernail has a hardness of about 2.5-3. If you can scratch your sample with your fingernail, your sample is compsed of fairly soft minerals and has a hardness of less than 3. Record your results.

   If you cannot scratch your sample with your fingernail, move onto the iron nail. If you can scratch your sample with an iron nail but not your fingernail, it has a has a hardness of about 3-4. Record your results.

   If you cannot scratch your sample with an iron nail, move onto the glass. Since you can't scratch your sample with a mirror safely, see if your sample can scratch it. If your sample does not scratch the glass or mirror, it has a hardness of about 5. Record your results.

   If your sample can scratch the glass or mirror, move onto the ceramic tile. If your sample cannot scratch the ceramic tile it has a hardness of about 6-7. If it does scratch the tile, it has a hardness of 7 or higher. Record your results.

Identifying minerals: hardness test

The Streak Test

    To perform the streak test you need your sample (or samples) and the ceramic tile. This test is simple, you just run your sample over the ceramic tile to observe what color streak it leaves. Most minerals leave a white streak but some leave very distinct colors like yellow, green, or brown. Skip the streak test for minerals with a hardness higher than 7, as they will only scratch tile, not leave a true streak. Record your results in your notebook.

Identifying minerals: streak test

The Magnetic Test

   The magnetic test is easy. Just hold the magnet to your sample and observe whether or not there is any magnetic attraction. Record your results.

The Acid Test

   Some minerals, like calcite, react with acid. For this test, drop a few drops of vinegar onto your sample and carefully observe to see if there are any gas bubbles produced. Record your results.

Identifying minerals: acid test. Some minerals like calcite react with acid.

   Once you've finished performing your tests, your ready to move onto actually identifying your sample(s). Using your rock and mineral guide or an online data base like this one at Collector's Corner, you can now identify your sample using the results of the tests and some simple observations like color and whether or not your sample is metalic. If your sample is a rock instead of a pure mineral, it is composed of two or more minerals. You will need to start by identifying what minerals your rock is composed of and then look up common rocks composed of those minerals. Collector's Corner has a good rock databse here.

Enjoy your mineral and rock hunting!

Follow me on:


Popular posts from this blog

Learning To Read Is Not A Race

So much emphasis is put on early literacy these days. Many school districts expect children to be reading by the end (or sometimes even the beginning) of kindergarten. While there is certainly nothing wrong with a child learning to read early, not all kids are developmentally ready to read at age 5, and that's okay. In this post I share several reasons why learning to read isn't a race.

Developmental Readiness
Kids all develop at their own pace. We know this when it comes to learning to walk or climbing the jungle gym or being ready for slumber parties but is often over looked when it comes to learning to read. Not all kids are developmentally there at the same age.  

Pushing kids to read before they're ready can cause a lot of frustration and resentment. It can destroy a child's chance to develop a love for reading by turning it into a frustrating chore. 

Reading Isn't The Only Way To Learn New Information
One of the reasons reading is pushed so early is to get kids re…

Make A Simple Compost Bin (a fun way to teach kids about soil)

We did a fun unit on soil last year and our big culminating project was setting up our own backyard compost bin. It ended up being much more simple to do than I originally thought it would be. In fact it's so simple, everyone should consider starting one! It's a great way to reduce your household waste, teach kids about soil and composting, and you end up with some excellent soil for your garden out of the process.

Setting Up A Compost Bin:
The first thing you need to do is pick a place for your bin. The best location will get a few hours of sun a day (the heat will help speed up the composting process) but not too much sun because you want your compost to stay moist. You also want to pick a spot somewhat close to the house so adding kitchen scraps is easy. 
Once you've chosen a location, it's time to actually set up your bin. Your compost bin can be as simple as just a pile in your yard (I personally don't use this method because we have too many critters around here…

5 Reasons To Let Your Kids Go Barefoot

I'm always surprised by how many concerned comments we get from well meaning strangers when my kids are barefoot in public. Comments like "Be careful, there are sharp rocks out here" or "Ouch, don't the wood chips hurt their feet?" I know these people mean well and are genuinely concerned but their concern is misplaced. Going barefoot has many benefits and wearing shoes too often can actually be damaging.

In this post I will share 5 ways going barefoot is beneficial for children (and adults too).

Proper Foot And Leg Development:
Wearing shoes affects the way a person steps. It requires using different sets of muscles differently than walking barefoot. Over time this can affect the development of the foot and leg muscles.
Modern shoes are constricting. Over time they can actually change the shape of a person's feet. Shoes can squish the bones of the feet together, affecting toe spread and arch. 
Flat feet are rare in places where shoes are seldom worn. Toe sp…

Learning About The Human Body Part 1: The Skeletal And Muscular Systems

At the end of each school year, I sit down with my daughter to discuss what topics she most wants to learn about the next year. One of her science topics she picked to study this year was the human body. Instead of ordering a boxed curriculum set, I decided to put together my own human body unit. In this 3 part series I will share some of the activities and resources we used for each of the body systems starting with the skeletal and muscular systems.

The Human Skeletal System

Our skeletons are the frame of our body. They give us structure, without them our bodies would be limp like noodles. They also provide places for muscles to attach so our bodies can move.

Why Does Your Body Need Calcium? Experiment:

This is a simple experiment you can do to explore why calcium is important for our bones.

You will need:

-several clean chicken bones


-a bowl with a lid or plastic wrap to cover it

Let your child examine a clean chicken bone. Note how hard it is.

Place several clean chicken bones int…

Six Fun Activities for Teaching Sight Word Recognition and Spelling

Sight words are words that you recognize by sight instead of sounding them out phonetically. Most of us do the vast majority of our reading by sight. When your reading a book you aren't sounding out words as you go, your reading by sight. You recognize the words because you've seen them many times before. The Dolche List is a list of the 315 most commonly used words in the English language. About 80% of the words in children's literature and 50% of the words in adult literature are compromised of these 315 words. Once a child has mastered these words, reading becomes much easier. In this post I'll share some of my favorite fun hands on sight word games and activities.

Flash card games:    We have several flash card games we like to play. Some of our favorites are Sight Word Go Fish and Sight Word memory. Making sight word flash cards is simple. I just write the sight words we're working on on 3 x 5 cards or even just rectangle pieces of construction paper. I don'…