Mineral Detective - Stage 4 Teachers Notes

In this self-guided program students investigate the properties and uses of minerals In pairs, students hunt down four mysterious minerals in the Planet of Minerals exhibition, look at their uses, and ask why they are used that way. Pooling their acquired knowledge in small groups, students then solve a final mystery which sees them move to the Albert Chapman Collection, to learn something about him, and to explore his stunning, world-class collection.

The Albert Chapman Mineral Collection

The Albert Chapman Mineral Collection
Photographer: James King © Australian Museum

Before your visit

Syllabus links

The activities link with these outcomes of the New South Wales Board of Studies Stage 4 Science Syllabus:

Prescribed Focus Area 4.3
  • Identifies areas of everyday life that have been affected by scientific developments
Knowledge & Understanding 4.11
  • Identifies where resources are found, and describes ways in which they are used by humans
Skills 4.16
  • Accesses information from identified secondary sources
Skills 4.19
  • Draws conclusions based on information available
Skills 4.22
  • Undertakes a variety of individual & team tasks with guidance

Before Your Visit

Pre-visit activities

To make the most of your visit to the exhibition we recommend that you prepare your students beforehand by:

  • introducing or revising relevant terminology used in the student activity sheets such as mineral, crystal, metal, opaque, translucent and chemical name.
  • providing a context for the excursion to the Museum including the reasons for visiting the Museum, the tasks to be completed and the expected outcomes.
  • dividing the class into two or three teams, so that you have groups of about eight.


Please photocopy for your students:

  • the Mineral Detective student activity sheet.
  • the four different Mystery Minerals sheets so that:
    • every Mystery Minerals sheet is backed by an exhibition floorplan
    • every student has only one Mystery Minerals sheet
    • in the class, there are about equal numbers of the four different sheets

Each student should be given:

The following materials should be photocopied for each supervising adult:

  • Australian Museum Guide Map 
  • Planet of Minerals exhibition floorplan (on any Mystery Mineral Student Activity Sheet).
  • Teachers’ Answers (provided after you book)
  • Your excursion timetable

Other materials

Students will also need:

  • a pencil or pen
  • a clipboard (optional but useful).

At the Australian Museum

On-site activities

Students will:

  • explore the Planet of Minerals exhibition with the person in their group who has the same Mystery Minerals sheet.
  • find their four minerals using:
    • the clues in the boxes on the left of their Mystery Minerals sheet
    • the number of letters in the mineral’s name (the number of dashes on the sheet)
    • the map on the other side of their sheet.
  • write the names of the minerals, and so reveal four secret letters - the ones that are boxed.
  • choose a reason for each mineral’s given use from those listed on the right-hand side, and draw an arrow from each mineral (a square) to a reason (an oval). (Each mineral should be linked to only one reason, and to a different reason.) By doing so, they will reveal four secret numbers.
  • regroup and use the secret letters and numbers on their Mineral Mystery sheets to solve the final mystery on their Mineral Detective student sheet, and to answer some final questions.
  • submit the group’s completed sheets to you, when they are finished. 

During this prior instruction, do not mention the Albert Chapman Collection! As you can see in the Teacher’s Answers, the name ‘Mister Albert Chapman’ is what the secret letters/numbers reveal. Students then know that they must enter the exhibition of his collection to solve the final mystery.

Also, draw students’ attention to:

  • the eyes. An eye indicates that the mineral also appears in other sections (as on the exhibition map). You could suggest that if they finish their Mystery Minerals sheets earlier than the rest of their group, they can write next to the eye the numbers of the other sections where their minerals can be found. You could reward those students who correctly list all of the sections. (The Teachers’ Answers list the section numbers next to the eyes.)
  • the fact that their minerals can look different to the specimen or specimens in the section that they are directed to, and that it probably also has other uses.
  • the Mineral Detective student instruction sheet: they can refer to it to know what to do.

The aims of this program are to:

  • encourage students to closely observe the minerals in the gallery. Ideally, students will look closely at the wider variety of minerals whilst searching for their four.
  • help students to understand some simple mineralogy terminology.
  • have students know some of the past and present uses of some minerals.
  • have students deduce, from a series of options, why these minerals have been used in this way.
  • encourage an appreciation for minerals, and a passion for mineral collecting!

Organisational tips

  • The activity takes approx. 45 minutes to one hour
  • Please use the Museum Guide Map to navigate your group to the Planet of Minerals exhibition on Level 1 and note to yourself the Albert Chapman Mineral Collection on the same floor where you and the students will end up, once they have worked out that the secret letters read ‘Mister Albert Chapman’.
  • You may like to station an adult helper in the Albert Chapman Mineral Collection so that they are there once students start to arrive.

Post-visit activities

Have students pick their favourite mineral from their Mystery Minerals sheet, and research it. They could also present their research in oral and/or written ways.

Introduce or reinforce students’ understanding of: crystal form, mineral hardness, element and compound, as well as of the terms mentioned in point three above.

Jenny Horder , Manager
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