Mining for Chocolate – Lesson for AP Environmental Science

This is post 3 of 4 in a series on using Population Education in APES. Check out the series overview here!

Human-environment interaction anchors a majority of the coursework in AP Environmental Science, for good reason. Within the natural/man-made dynamic students are presented with “real  world” challenges that require the very best of their critical thinking skills. Mining for Chocolate, or the “Cookie Mining Activity,” is a simulated lab activity that deals with environmental impact of human reliance on nonrenewable resources. In the lab students take on the responsibility of mineral extraction for a company as they “mine” chocolate chips from cookies. As students work through the lab they must be strategic in the placement of their operation because the cookies sit on a mining area grid layered with natural attributes such as: water, forest, rich top soil, deer habitats, and scenic beauty. Students must evaluate the risks associated with their mining and examine alternative solutions to achieve as little environmental impact as possible.

Mining for Chocolate’s Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the difficulties and hazards of extracting ore from the earth.
  • Describe how mining operations can affect the land and its biodiversity.
  • Examine and evaluate the true and external costs associated with full-scale mining and name two examples.

Connection to AP Environmental Science

Mining for Chocolate, or the “Cookie Mining Activity” as it is listed in the APES Teacher’s Guide, directly covers topical and thematic content in APES, with the versatility to be incorporated into a number of units. David Hong, an APES teacher at Diamond Bar High School in Diamond Bar, CA, utilizes the lab activity in a unit on Solid Waste, Minerals, and Mining, covering APES Topic IV (Land and Water Use) and APES Topic VI (Pollution) simultaneously. Alternatively, Nita Ganguly, an APES teacher at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, TN includes Mining for Chocolate in a unit on Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources (APES Topic V – Energy Resources and Consumption). Both syllabi are available in the College Board’s official AP Environmental Science Teacher’s Guide. No matter the placement of this lab activity within your curriculum, you can be assured that students will engage in high level inquiry around the true environmental costs of human wants and needs.