Mining for Chocolate Chips

It is the last week of school before exams, so the Environmental Science class has been doing a lot of labs instead of a lot of bookwork. I have always admired this particular science teacher for the hands-on things she finds for the kids to do. Generally, at least at my school, Environmental Science students are not readers, so they don’t read the book, but they DO remember the hands-on activities.

The last chapter we did was on mining and searching for ore deposits. Today, the teacher came in with two kinds of chocolate chip cookies: Chips Ahoy and a store brand. The kids were give $20 in play money. Out of this money, each team had to buy one cookie. The Chips Ahoy cost $5 and the store brand cost $3. Then they had to spend money for their tools. Toothpicks, popsicle sticks and paper clips cost $2 apiece.

The teams were given a sheet of graph paper on which they had to trace their cookie. At the end of the activity, for reclamation purposes, they had to fit all their cookie parts, minus the chips, of course, back into that circle. Then they went to work. They had to figure in the cost of their mining for the chips at $1 per minute. Most of them mined for about five minutes.

It was sort of fun to watch the kids go at it. You had your precise miners, and you had the kids who basically destroyed the cookie. Actually, the kids who destroyed the cookie ended up finding more chips and making more money as each chip netted them $2 in profit. The toothpick appeared to be the most profitable tool. If the teams fit their cookie pieces back in the fifty-eight squares they had started with, they ended up with an additional $58.

Each team made a profit, those profits ranging from $80 to $108. They figured the cost of their supplies and added and subtracted appropriately to decide what they had earned. And while they might not come away from this activity with too much more than an yen for chocolate chips, I bet they at least understand that you make more money if you reclaim the land.

The end of the year at any school is hard on students and teachers alike. It was nice to see the kids having fun and learning. I have been blessed to work with this science teacher who does her best to reach each student regardless of his or her ability level. I am sure that each of them have learned something this year.


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May 2006
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