Earth Science Students Get the Scoop on Rocks, Minerals and Mining

Zoom capture of speaker with presentation

What do you think about when someone says ‘mine’ or ‘mining’?

Rocks underground? Little men from Snow White with pickaxes? Minecraft?

Eighth-grade students in Tracy Brusie’s Regents Earth Science class had the opportunity to get the scoop on rocks, minerals and mining from Katherine Smith, a mined land reclamation specialist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

This presentation is part of an initiative by Brusie to bring scientists working in the field into the classroom, virtually, to offer new perspectives to her students. Brusie connected with Smith through a collaboration with her Carmel High School colleague, Audrey Romanovsky.

Smith explained to the students that her work varies each day. Some days she is reviewing applications for mining permits, responding to complaints on mines and going over topography maps, and other days she is on-site at mining locations.

“Part of what I do is make sure that after people take minerals from the earth, they complete the requirement to return that area to a stable state,” said Smith. “That is probably one of my favorite parts of my job, seeing an area that had a lot of work done to it be retuned back to a place where animals can have a habitat and life can grow.”

Her presentation to the students highlighted photos and videos from mine sites, including ones that are local to the District’s area, and a review of local topography maps.

Students sit one per table in the classroom watching presentation

"Seeing our Earth Science topics like topography used by a real-world scientist showed me that the material we learn in the classroom can be useful in real life,” said student Adrian Krasniqi.

“I liked how she went in-depth about mining and how we get minerals," said student Jake Patino.

Smith’s presentation ended with an interactive portion where she displayed characteristics of a particular mineral on the screen and had the students try to guess what it was, from what they learned in class. With reference tables at the ready, Brusie’s students aced the identification challenge.

“Kate’s presentation really helped bring relevance to the Earth Science curriculum for our students,” said Brusie.