THE ONTARIO CURRICULUM, GRADES 1–8 | Science and Technology ~ 2007

Fellow Teachers,

The following is the new Grade 4 Rocks & Minerals Curriculum, taken from the Ontario Science & Technology Curriculum Document released in 2007. The links to pages within the RocksForKids site have been added here to make it easier for you to get background information. The

Enjoy!   E2B2


  1.  assess the social and environmental impacts of human uses of rocks and minerals;

  2. investigate, test, and compare the physical properties of rocks and minerals;

  3.  demonstrate an understanding of the physical properties of rocks and minerals.


The study of rocks and minerals introduces students to the science of geology. By examining different types of rocks and minerals found in the earth’s crust, students will learn that the unique characteristics and properties of rocks and minerals are a result of how they were formed. Such properties determine possible uses. It is important that students become aware of how human uses of rocks and minerals not only alter the landscape but also affect the environment in various other ways.

Because rocks and minerals are such an integral part of our lives, it may be hard for students in Grade 4 to see the issues clearly. It would be very easy for their viewpoint to be skewed as they come to realize the impacts associated with just one person’s yearly use of these natural resources (including impacts from mining, production, use, and disposal). Therefore, it is critical that they be given opportunities to look at the issues from the standpoint of all stakeholders: mining companies, communities where the mines are located, manufacturers, those who are dependent on the natural environment, and people who benefit from the use of the products – the students and their families. In communities where mining or related manufacturing processes provide the livelihood for parents of many students, teachers must be sensitive to the feelings of all students when discussing the costs and benefits of using everyday objects and products made from rocks and minerals.

It is important that students be able to identify and demonstrate an understanding of practices that ensure their own personal safety and the safety of others. For example, students need to know that some places might be unsafe for collecting their rock samples (e.g., a construction site) and that they need to wear eye protection when conducting investigations (e.g., when chipping samples).

Fundamental Concepts

Big Ideas

1.       Change and Continuity

2.       Sustainability and Stewardship

3.       Structure and Function

1.       Rocks and minerals have unique characteristics and properties that are a result of how they were formed. (Overall expectations 2 and 3)

2.       The properties of rocks and minerals determine society’s possible uses for them. (Overall expectations 1 and 2)

3.       Our use of rocks and minerals affects the environment. (Overall expectation 1)

Overall Expectations

  1. ASSESS the social and environmental impacts of human uses of rocks and minerals

  2. INVESTIGATE, test and compare the physical properties of rocks and minerals

  3. DEMONSTRATE an understanding of the physical properties of rocks and minerals

Specific Expectations


Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment


Assess the social and environmental costs and benefits of using objects in the built environment that are made from rocks and minerals

Sample issues:

1.       Quarried stone, sand, and gravel are used to make concrete. We need the strength and long life that concrete gives to roads and buildings, but making concrete uses a lot of natural resources and energy.

2.       Aluminum is used to make soft drink containers and trash cans. It can be recycled many times, and recycling uses much less energy than making aluminum from ore.

3.       One person uses 5.4 kilograms of salt per year on food and another 180 kilograms a year for other things, such as de-icing roads and sidewalks in winter. We need salt in our diet, but when we use it on our roads and sidewalks, it causes damage to cars, water, and plants. (d) Clay is used to make plates and mugs, bricks for buildings, and kitty litter, but clay is strip-mined and the products made from it are persistent in the environment.


Analyse the impact on society and the environment of extracting and refining rocks and minerals for human use, taking different perspectives into account e.g.the perspectives of

  • mine owners,

  • the families of the miners,

  • Aboriginal communities,

  • the refinery workers,

  • manufacturers of items who need the refined rocks and minerals to make their products,

  • residents who live in communities located near refineries and manufacturing facilities and who are concerned about the environment)

Sample issues:

1.       Strip mining (or close surface extraction) is used to extract rocks and minerals for eventual human use. It is less dangerous for humans than underground mining, but it has a greater impact on the surface landscape, including the loss of significant amounts of rich topsoil. Efforts are being made by mining companies to reclaim land where mines and quarries have been closed. Abandoned quarries can be filled with water and used for recreational purposes. When a mine is closed, topsoil can be replaced and native species replanted.

2.       The smelting process is necessary to extract ores and minerals that can be made into products for human use. But the process produces waste materials, including gases that cause climate change, acid rain, and smog.


Developing Skills of Scientific Investigation and Technological Problem Solving


Follow established safety procedures for outdoor activities and for working with tools, materials, and equipment (e.g., use scratch and streak test materials for the purposes for which they are intended; when working outdoors, leave the site as it was found)


Use a variety of tests to identify the physical properties of minerals e.g.


Use a variety of criteria (e.g., colour, texture, lustre) to classify common rocks and minerals according to their characteristics


Use scientific inquiry/research skills (see page 15) to investigate how rocks and minerals are used and disposed of in everyday life e.g.

  • nickel and copper are made into coins;

    • old coins can be melted down and the metal can be used for making other things;

  • calcium [from limestone], silicon [from sand or clay], aluminum [from bauxite and iron ore], and iron [from bauxite and iron ore] are made into cement that is used for roads and buildings;

    • cement can be returned to cement and concrete production facilities and recycled;

  • rocks from quarries are used for garden landscaping, and these rocks can be reused;

  • marble is used for countertops and statues; old and worn pieces of marble can be repolished and recut to be made to look like new)

Sample guiding questions:

  • Where might we find products made from rocks and minerals in our daily life?

  • How might you find out other ways in which rocks and minerals are used in everyday items?

  • Why might some people and groups have concerns about the use of some of these rocks and minerals?

  • What might be some alternative materials that could be used instead of the rocks and minerals?

  • How are some of the items made from rocks and/or minerals disposed of when they are no longer useful?

  • Which minerals can be recycled or reused in other products?


Use appropriate science and technology vocabulary, including hardness, colour, lustre, and texture, in oral and written communication


Use a variety of forms (e.g., oral, written, graphic, multimedia) to communicate with different audiences and for a variety of purposes (e.g., use a graphic organizer to show how rocks and minerals are used in daily life)


Understanding Basic Concepts


Describe the difference between rocks (composed of two or more minerals) and minerals (composed of the same substance throughout), and explain how these differences make them suitable for human use


Describe the properties e.g.

that are used to identify minerals


Describe how igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks are formed e.g.

  • igneous rocks form when hot, liquid rock from deep below the earth’s surface rises towards the surface, cools, and solidifies;

  • sedimentary rocks form when small pieces of the earth that have been worn away by wind and water accumulate at the bottom of rivers, lakes, and oceans and are eventually compressed into rock;

  • metamorphic rocks form when igneous or sedimentary rocks are changed by heat and pressure


Describe the characteristics of the three classes of rocks e.g.

  • sedimentary rocks often have flat or curved layers, are composed of pieces that are roughly the same size with pores between the pieces, and often contain fossils;

  • igneous rocks have no layers, are usually made up of two or more minerals whose crystals are different sizes, and normally do not contain fossils;

  • metamorphic rocks may have alternating bands of light and dark minerals, may be composed of only one mineral, such as marble or quartzite, and rarely contain fossils),

and explain how their characteristics are related to their origin

3. Understanding Basic Concepts

THE ONTARIO CURRICULUM, GRADES 1–8 | Science and Technology Scientific Inquiry/Experimentation Skills p.12

Learning science [and technology] is something students do, not something that is done to them National Science Education Standards (1996), p. 20

Along with a knowledge foundation, the study of science and technology offers students varied opportunities to learn and master skills that are relevant to their everyday world.

In the specific expectations, reference is made to the following three skill areas:

  • scientific inquiry/experimentation skills
  • scientific inquiry/research skills
  • technological problem-solving skills

Skill continua are provided on the following pages for these skill areas. The continua present an ordered series of descriptive statements that mark out students’ development along the road to mastery of these specific skills. The continua provide teachers with a way of looking at what students can do so that they can plan for further development of their students’ skills. In general terms, the skills involved in scientific investigation and technological problem solving are the following:

  • initiating and planning (e.g., asking questions, clarifying problems, planning procedures)
  • performing and recording (e.g., following procedures, accessing information, recording observations and findings)
  • analysing and interpreting (e.g., organizing data, reflecting on the effectiveness of actions performed, drawing conclusions)
  • communicating (e.g., using appropriate vocabulary, communicating findings in a variety of ways)

THE ONTARIO CURRICULUM, GRADES 1–8 | Science and Technology Scientific Inquiry/Research Skills p.15
The Scientific Inquiry / Research Skill Continuum

Research includes both primary research, which is done through first-hand, direct observations of objects and processes, and secondary research, which is done by reviewing the work and findings of others.



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