How We Use Copper and Iron - Lesson Plan
Copper: The earliest inhabitants of Michigan used native copper. Because it is a soft metal they made mostly ornaments from it rather than weapons. They were the state's first miners. Observations by Douglass Houghton in 1821 and 1832 led to one of the biggest and most important mining booms in this country's first century. The Keweenaw Peninsula in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan had heavy deposits of copper. By 1845, copper was being mined.
Iron: In 1844 a survey party headed by William Burt noted wild fluctuations in their magnetic compass. Burt suspected iron deposits and used his solar compass to survey the area. This lead to the discovery of rich iron deposits. The Marquette, Menominee, and Gogebic Ranges in the Upper Peninsula had the main concentrations of iron ore.
- Students will identify uses for copper and iron.
- Students will identify and discuss objects made from copper, iron and their alloys.
Michigan Social Studies Curriculum Content Standards
This lesson presents an opportunity to address, in part, these standards:
SOC.I.3. Analyzing and Interpreting the Past. All students will reconstruct the past by comparing interpretations written by others from a variety of perspectives and creating narratives from evidence.
SOC.IV.1. Individual and Household Choices. All students will describe and demonstrate how the economic forces of scarcity and choice affect the management of personal financial resources, shape consumer decisions regarding the purchase, use, and disposal of goods and services and affect the economic well-being of individuals and society.
Items made of copper, iron, and their alloys.
Ask each student to bring objects from home that are made of either copper or iron and explain what the object is and how it is used. If real objects cannot be found, ask them to find a picture from a catalog or advertisement. Many items will be made from alloys such as brass (copper + zinc), bronze (copper + tin) and steel (iron + carbon).
Questions for Discussion or Research
- Why are copper and iron often "mixed" with other metals or nonmetallic elements (e.g., carbon) to make objects?
- Name things made with copper or iron or their alloys that are too big to bring into the classroom (e.g., copper roof, steel I-beams used in construction, locomotive)
- Using library and/or Web resources, investigate the penny. Is it a "copper" penny? Why or why not?
At the Michigan Historical Museum
In the "Mining in Michigan" Gallery:
- See samples of copper and iron ores. Compare these "raw" metals with the products made from them.
- Study the charts that show how copper and iron are processed.
- Alloy: A substance composed of two or more metals or nonmetals.
- Brass: An alloy of copper with zinc (formerly tin) and sometimes small amounts of other metals that is easy to work or form and harder and stronger than copper alone. It is also used for plating items made of other metals to give them a bright decorative brass appearance.
- Bronze: An alloy of copper and tin (with sometimes small proportions of other elements such as zinc and phosphorus) that is harder and stronger than brass. It is used for industrial items and for art objects and bells. Baby shoes that are "bronzed" are coated (electroplated) with a layer of copper, often mixed with other elements).
- Mineral: Class of inorganic substances found in nature with a definite chemical composition and characteristic crystalline stricture, color, and hardness.
- Ore: A mineral or aggregate of minerals from which a metal can be profitably mined.
- Dorr, Jr., John A. and Donald F. Eschman. Geology of Michigan. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1970.
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Geology in Michigan.
- Heinrich, E. Wm. (1976). The Mineralogy of Michigan. Bulletin 6. Lansing, MI: Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Division.
- Our Rock Riches (1964). Michigan Geological Survey. Bulletin 1. Lansing, MI: Michigan Department of Conservation
Contact the Michigan Historical Museum.