Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Mineral Resources in Mobile Phones: A Case Study of Boston and Vienna Teachers and Students

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Mineral Resources in Mobile Phones: A Case Study of Boston and Vienna Teachers and Students

Article excerpt


Ensuring environmental sustainability is one of the eight United Nations 2015 Millennium Development Goals (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], 2000). To achieve this goal, all citizens require a fundamental understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to make environmentally sound decisions, and the STEM education community needs collaboration with competent scientists to develop a scientifically literate society as well as inspire future scientists (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1993; National Science Foundation [NSF], 1996; National Research Council [NRC], 1997).

Today, humanity faces many sustainability challenges ranging from declining mineral resources, and air and land pollution, to water shortages and changing global climate- all directly related to the Earth Sciences (Locke, Libarkin, and Chang, 2012). This especially includes knowledge about soils, water, air, and other resources that need to be handled with sensitivity-thus making Earth Science literacy a key component in the generation of policies that appropriately weigh the importance of resource conservation, use, and sustainability (Feinstein and Kirchgasler, 2015). The Earth Science Literacy Initiative (ESLI; 2010), which is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, developed a framework of underlying principles in Earth Science, and identified resources in Big Idea 7: "Humans depend on Earth for resources."

However, young people tend to be unaware of their resource-intensive lifestyle and many seem to feel that their lives are not connected to the environment (Michigan Teacher Expert Program [MiTEP], 2010). Project 2061, an initiative of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has identified several common geoscience misconceptions related to mineral resources as reported by the MiTEP (2010):

* "Diamonds, gold, and silver are valuable, therefore, they are not rocks or minerals."

* "Manmade materials do not come from mineral resources."

* "Earth's resources are not finite-there is an endless supply of water, petroleum, and mineral resources. All we have to do is to explore for them."

When focusing on electronic consumables such as mobile phones and notepads, it furthermore needs to be understood that virtually every good that we use originates from natural resources. Many of these origins are not directly visible and the misconceptions above suggest that students do not make connections between minerals and mining, and the goods they buy. Therefore, we have developed a learning experience to address these misconceptions and used mobile phones as an example device. Ultimately, students need to make the connection between their lives and our Earth in order for them to understand that we are not detached from nature even if it is not visible, such as in consumables, for example.

Understanding about resources and environmental protection is also an important concept in geology, combining knowledge about Earth's interacting system processes and integrating elements of chemistry, physics, and biology. Understanding the topic of mineral resources also takes into account social, political, and economic aspects of a globalized world through an increased awareness and understanding of mining and production, and issues accompanied with these processes. Thus, teaching about resources in mobile phones provides a unique opportunity to introduce students to key scientific concepts that integrate knowledge from a diverse range of disciplines and have a meaningful connection to their current lifestyle. Although the topic can be broken down into many facts in a very broad interdisciplinary setting, in Table I we only list the main geoscientific-related learning goals.

Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) make up a large amount of consumables; in the European Union in 2012, 9.1 million tons of EEE were put on the market. …

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