Diamonds are the state gem in Arkansas, where we live, but students everywhere will enjoy learning more about them. Diamonds are made entirely of carbon — we humans are about 18% carbon ourselves, but diamonds are all carbon. They’re the hardest substance in the world, and they reflect light in a special way (basically, the light bounces around inside the diamond) that makes them super shiny.
How diamonds are formed
- Diamonds began with stardust. As far as we know, pretty much all the carbon in the world came to earth as dust from dying stars. The stardust that ended up deep within the earth was the starting point for diamonds.
- The carbon inside the earth’s layers, between the core and the crust, got cooked and squished — it takes a lot of heat and pressure to create diamonds.
- When magma comes up to the earth during volcanic action, diamonds can come along for the ride. The results is areas where diamonds can be mined, as in the book at the Volcano Lesson Plans link, and also diamonds moved around by erosion.
Have students conduct research on each of these steps and create an infographic showing how diamonds are formed.
Read about Crater of Diamonds State Park, where diamond hunters can keep any diamonds they find — and large diamonds have been found there, including the “Uncle Sam” diamond, which was over 40 carats. Crater of Diamonds is the only active diamond mine in the United States, but it is operated as a tourist attraction; it was found that it could not be operated profitably as a commercial diamond mine. Download the Teachers Guide for reproducibles (reading comprehension passage, maze, and word find).
Plan an imaginary class trip to the park, figure the costs, and determine what sort of diamond the class would have to find to make the trip pay for itself. This project will give practice with online research, math, and problem solving.
Share A Diamond’s Journey , an interactive digital presentation from NBC news, with older students. There they can follow the diamond from the mines in Africa through cutters in India to sales in Europe and the United States. Have students create a chart showing the cost of a diamond and how much of that price goes to the miners, traders, cutters, and dealers.
Compare the Crater of Diamonds park and the commercial diamond mines. Discuss why a diamond mine in the United States might be harder to pay for than a mine in Botswana. Will American workers accept jobs like those of the miners in the Congo or the cutters in India? Would it be legal to pay an American worker $65.oo per month, the wage diamond cutters earn in India, or to have them live in tents at a mine?
The value of diamonds
Gem-quality diamonds are the first ones we think of. Have students explore Blue Nile’s Diamond Education section to learn about diamond shapes and the “4 Cs” of diamond quality: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight.
Don’t miss the chance to work with ratios on the Diamond Shapes page and measurement on the Cut page!
Now learn about diamonds as they are used in jewelry:
- Read about the history of diamond cutting and add the times and places to your class timeline and map.
- Explore a Pinterest board on diamonds which shows many of the most famous examples of diamond jewelry in history.
- Have students design a piece of jewelry for diamonds, being sure to incorporate what they’ve learned about diamond quality and cutting.
Wait — diamonds aren’t just for pretty! Only a small percentage of diamonds are gem quality. Most are industrial quality, but they are still extremely useful. Diamonds have some special characteristics that have nothing to do with their beauty:
- Diamonds are the hardest substance known.
- They do not conduct electricity well (they are semiconductors), but they do conduct heat very well — in fact, diamonds are the best material for thermal conduction.
- They resist water, but accept oil.
Brainstorm with the class situations in which objects with these characteristics might be useful. Share with students (after brainstorming) that diamonds are mostly used for cutting and polishing. However, there are many other uses for diamonds. For example, diamonds are used in micro-electronics to carry heat away from delicate machinery. They are used as bearings (like a ball bearing) in watches, because they are so hard that they produce no friction in this use. They are used as semiconductors in electronics.
If the point has not yet come up in your discussion, point out that diamonds are small and rare. As long as industry needed big pieces, diamonds were not as useful as they might have been. Now that we make very small things for electronics, diamonds are very useful.
99% of the diamonds used in industrial applications are synthetic. See the links below to learn more about making diamonds.
- Nature has video clips and discussion questions about diamonds
- The Mystery of the Hope Diamond includes video clips.
- PBS lesson plan on conflict diamonds.
- Diamonds and Water is an economics lesson on value.
- Toads and Diamonds is a traditional story.
Here’s Lefty, one of the lucky sheep living at the Ozark Folk Center. Lefty, like all sheep, grows wool. Sheep have been raised for wool, as well as for milk and meat, for centuries. In fact, sheep are among the earliest domestic animals.
Wool is removed from sheep by shearing, which is a lot like getting a haircut with clippers, as many boys do. Wool comes in different colors.
The wool is washed and carded (which is like combing), and the resulting wool is called roving . We got to play with some roving at the Ozark Folk Center.
Once the wool is clean and ready, it is spun into yarn with a spinning wheel like the one below, or with big machines in a factory. Spinning is a matter of twisting all the fibers together into one long strand of yarn.
The yarn may be left in its natural color or dyed. At the Folk Center, yarn is often dyed with plants like onions or flowers to give it color.
We also learned how to dye wool in a Zip-loc bag of Kool-Aid, though!
Once the yarn is ready, it can be woven into fabric on a loom.
The yarn can also be knitted into sweaters or socks. Both knitting or weaving are now mostly done by big machines in factories, but chances are good that you could find someone in your community who knits of weaves. Let kids try it out, if possible.
We are very thankful to the Folk Center for showing us all these things and letting us share them with you. If possible, give your students a chance to experience some of these steps in the classroom — maybe not a live sheep, but certainly wool yarn is readily available. Chances are good that someone in the class will own some wool clothing, and the path from sheep to sweater is an interesting one.
Younger students can enjoy reading about the steps from raw materials to finished product in these books:
- Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie de Paola
- The Goat in the Rug by Charles L. Blood
- Weaving the Rainbow by George Ella Lyon
- Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave by Monty Roessel
Once students understand the process and have had a chance to experience wool to whatever degree is practical in your classroom, have students illustrate the steps from the sheep to their socks. Students should draw each step from sheep to socks onto a card. Add roving for 3-D fun. Stetch yarn across your bulletin board and let students pin their cards in order with clothespins. You could also make a class book or PowerPoint, or an infographic.
The simplest economics lesson here is the path from raw materials to finished goods. There are some other interesting lessons available, though:
- An infographic shows how price changes have affected the kind of sheep raised in New Zealand over time. This data compares wool and meat prices and production. Have students figure out the case and effect shown in the infographic and write a paragraph.
- Matt Bailey made an infographic showing wool production by country. Have students find the countries represented and see whether there is a connection between the size of the country and the amount of wool produced.
- Do you have 4-H or County Extension agents nearby? They’ll be happy to come talk with your class about raising sheep. Urban classrooms, try this powerpoint presentation instead:
From preschoolers who love to play with toy trucks to high school students discovering all the jobs involved in logistics and freight transport, everyone can learn something from a good less on trucks. Scroll down to find lessons at different grade levels.
Preschool and Kindergarten
Read books about trucks:
Listen to a song about trucks and sing along!
Invite students to bring a toy truck from home to show, or collect toy trucks at garage sales or dime stores. Have students create art with their toy trucks:
- Drive the trucks through shallow trays of paint and then across paper, creating tracks of paint.
- Have each student roll or pat out a thin slab of Model Magic and run trucks across it to create texture. Model Magic can be painted or colored with markers as well.
- Alternatively, make trucks. Milk carton dump trucks are a lot of fun, or just glue simple shapes onto paper — rectangles plus circles for wheels.
Kids come to school with some old-fashioned ideas about trucks! Share this information with your students:
Trucks pick up raw materials, such as rice from a farm or milk from a dairy. They may also pick up things like containers of computer parts arriving by ship — not exactly raw materials, but the needed parts for manufacturing. Different kinds of trucks pick up different things:
A tanker truck carries liquids like gasoline or milk. It’s very important to keep these trucks clean and safe. Tanker trucks have round bodies.
A flatbed truck can carry big things, like containers used to transport things by ship. They have big flat surfaces. It’s important to make sure loads on flatbeds are very secure so they won’t fall off the truck.
A van is the rectangular part of the truck. A truck may have a cab (shown on the flatbed) that attaches to a van, or it may be all in one piece, in which case it’s called a straight truck. Vans are used to carry dry goods, like boxes of cereal, books, or toys.
A truck for bulk hauling, such as carrying rice or other grains, might have a walking floor, as you can see in the video below. This automatic floor can make it easier to load and unload bulk items, or very heavy things that would be hard for people to carry.
Trucks bring raw materials to a factory to be made into new products, or to a warehouse where they’re put into packages. A warehouse is a big building where things are stored, and a manufacturer, factory, or store might have its own warehouse. Often a warehouse is part of what’s called a “fulfillment house,” where raw materials or new products are packaged and sent on to customers or to stores.
People in fulfillment houses use computers to keep track of all the things they need to store, package, and send. Students have probably seen bar codes and scanners in stores. These are the tools warehouse and fulfillment house workers use to make sure all the items in the warehouse get to the right place.
Once the products are all packaged, they’re packed into more trucks — usually vans — to go to stores. The workers use computers to make sure everything goes into the right trucks and to the right stores.
Truck drivers might make short hauls, like driving products from the warehouse to a store in a nearby city, or they might make long hauls across several states. Long haul drivers have beds in the cabs of their trucks, and they take showers and eat at special places called truck stops, where they can rest and get diesel fuel for their trucks. Most truck drivers have computers in their cabs, too, which they can use for communication and entertainment.
When the trucks arrive at the store, workers unpack the truck and put the products onto the shelves. They may use the barcodes on the packages, and they may also put new labels onto the packages. Sometimes a small store will use a different computer system, so the barcodes put on the boxes in the warehouse or on the products by the manufacturers don’t work with their computers. Bigger stores usually use the same system from start to finish.
Printable version of this passage, with comprehension questions, in PDF form
Read and discuss the information, have students complete the comprehension questions, and then ask students to think of other kinds of trucks. This passage was about freight trucks, but students will also think of garbage trucks, fire trucks, dump trucks, and more.
Finish up by having students draw and label a picture that shows the most interesting thing they learned. Create a bulletin board or a class book. Alternatively, have students imagine a world without trucks and write about it.
Discuss the information in the passage above with students:
- Did students realize how much computers are now used in freight transportation? Truckers also often find their jobs by computer, with programs called “load boards.” There are also freight brokers who use computer programs to find the trucks and drivers (also called “carriers”) for customers who need things transported. Then manufacturers or farmers and stores can use computers to track the products between the factory or field and the store. Ask students if they think everyone needs to learn to use a computer now.
- Trucks use huge amounts of fossil fuel to carry goods from one place to another. According to government studies, trucks are responsible for about 20% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. New laws require big trucks to become more fuel efficient by 2018. Challenge students to think of ways that fuel use could be reduced. Possibilities include everything from more efficient truck designs to using things made or grown locally.
- The whole field of freight and getting things from one place to another is called “logistics.” Check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook’s page on this field. Have students conduct internet research to find jobs in the field of logistics in your area, and then to find colleges offering training in logistics. As a class or in small groups, compile a list of the jobs in the field, the skills and talents required for this type of work, and the pros and cons of the jobs.
Give students a typical logistics job to plan:
- Have students imagine that they have a shipment of computer parts arriving from China or Japan.
- They’ll arrive first at a dock in Los Angeles, and the class is responsible for getting the components to a computer factory in Cleveland.
- Then the finished computers need to be shipped out to stores. One group of computers will be sent to a fulfillment house in Bentonville, Arkansas for “kitting” — they’ll be packed in special red boxes with some cool accessories for a Back to School promotion at a store in St. Louis.
- The accessories will be going to the fulfillment house from a factory in Toronto and a warehouse in Virginia.
- The red boxes are being made in Ft. Smith.
The class is responsible for getting the special computers in their snazzy boxes to St. Louis in time for the special Back to School promotion. Have students figure out how they’ll do it. They should consider the people they’ll need to hire, the trucks they’ll need, the information they’ll have to keep track of, and the schedule.
You could divide the class into teams and have each team present their plan, or have the class work together. Create flow charts once the plan is finalized.
The Lorax, written by Dr. Seuss in 1971, is the inspiration for a new movie. Seussville has a Lorax Project with discussion questions for the book, printable activity sheets, and ideas for Earth Day. Classroom decorating is easy with Eureka Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax Guide to Green Bulletin Board Set and the Lorax Guide to Green Deco Kit, which has individual bulletin board pieces with environmental tips. All in all, it’s a great time to read The Lorax in your classroom. Read more
The Soldier’s Tale by Igor Stravinsky tells in music, narration, and dance the Russian folktale of a soldier on leave who trades his violin — and his soul — for wealth in the form of a book that foretells changes in the stock market. The soldier agrees to go home with the Devil for a couple of days to teach him how to play the violin. At the Devil’s home, he tastes a life of luxury, and when he continues on to his village, he discovers that three years have passed, not three days. His fiancee has married another, his mother thinks he’s a ghost, and his old life is gone. The Devil appears again in another guise and persuades the soldier to enjoy his wealth. The soldier becomes rich, but not happy, and destroys the magic book.
A second episode begins with the disconsolate soldier coming to a new town where, in common fairy tale fashion, a princess lies ill and her father, the King ,will give her hand in marriage to anyone who can cure here. The soldier tries his hand, and then the Devil appears again in yet another form. The soldier plays cards with the Devil, losing all his money but winning back his violin. The music of the violin cures the princess and defeats the Devil, but the Devil tells the soldier that he will — if he leaves the kingdom — belong to the Devil again. The soldier marries his princess and they live happily until they decide to go visit the soldier’s long-lost mother. As soon as he steps out of the kingdom, the soldier becomes a statue and is lost to his princess forever.
Maestro Classics has prepared a new CD of The Soldier’s Tale with narration and music, as well as information about Stravinsky and a dance remix that should have your students up and moving. Hear samples of the recording at the Maestro Classics website, where you can also have a look at the 24-page booklet that comes with the CD. It has the story with fun illustrations, plus background information, pictures of the seven orchestral instruments in the performance, and a crossword puzzle.
The recording is excellent, weaving the music in and out of the story beautifully. The music, using the handful of instruments for which Stravinsky originally scored the piece, conveys the feelings and action of the story equally with the narration, and the whole thing is well suited to listening practice. Begin your study simply by listening to the recording.
Have the class retell the story by drawing illustrations for the events in the story, or by acting them out.
Once the basic story is clear, dig a little deeper. Share this movie clip with the class:
In this scene from R. O. Blechman’s 1983 film of the story, the soldier meets the Devil and makes a deal with him. The cartoon shows the soldier’s simplicity and uncertainty well. The soldier is tempted and gives in to that temptation, but he’s not sure he’s making the right decision.
Ask students whether they think the soldier made the right decision. If not, what should he have done differently? Have the students had a similar experience, when they were tempted to do something they thought might be unwise? Identify clues in the film or the recording that should have given the soldier a hint that the old man wasn’t quite what he seemed.
In the following video, artists from The Aurora Theater talk about their production of this piece. At the beginning of the video, they talk about how the soldier likes his bargain with the Devil at first, but then discovers the price of his choice.
Watch the discussion and then ask students what might have been pleasant about the soldier’s deal with the Devil: having wealth, knowing the future, having adventures. Then list the consequences of the decision.
With the story clear in everyone’s minds, explore some cross curricular activities.
- With only seven instruments in use, it’s easier to hear the individual instruments. This is a nice piece for listening to identify each instrument in the performance. The booklet that comes with the recording pictures each instrument used.
- Learn about Igor Stravinsky, one of the most important composers of the 20th century. The recording includes a lecture on the subject. Have students listen and practice their note taking skills. There are also a couple of children’s books that can add layers of understanding. Mike Venezia’s Igor Stravinsky tells Stravinsky’s life story lightly with cartoons, but includes everything students will want to know about. Stravinksy is also included in Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought), a wonderful book to have in your classroom library.
- Listen to specific parts of the piece at All Things Trumpet. There you will also find some discussion of the music and the final moral of the story, not included on the Maestro Classics CD.
- Are your students inspired to think about playing the violin themselves? Show them a youth orchestra in rehearsal at Valenches Music. If your school doesn’t have an orchestra, your community might — invite some young musicians in for a class visit.
- The Soldier’s Tale was written in 1918, and it included three dances: ragtime, waltz, and tango. The tango and ragtime were both new at that time, and the waltz, while not new, was still considered a bit racy in some circles. Jazz was becoming important, but Stravinsky had never heard jazz. He had seen some sheet music for jazz brought back from America with a friend. Have students explore music from this time period (one resource is Public Domain Music) and discuss whether Stravinsky’s music was typical of its time, or innovative.
- C.F. Ramuz wrote the story for The Soldier’s Tale. It’s generally claimed that the story is based on a Russian folktale, but we haven’t found it. The closest we’ve come is the Magyar Soldier’s Tale. Use a Venn diagram to compare the two.
- There are several points in The Soldier’s Tale which could have been happy endings, but the story continues to an unhappy ending. Give students the option of rewriting the story with a happy ending, or of writing an essay explaining why they like the ending as it is.
- The Soldier’s Tale has been filmed a few times, but it had never been made into a Walt Disney movie or a Barbie or Muppets version. Usually,this kind of movie version of a folktale will have the rough parts taken out and a clear moral lesson of some kind added. Students may be familiar with the Disney and original versions of tales like Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, and The Frog Prince. Divide the class and have each group choose a fairy tale and compare the original to the Disney version. Then assign each group an episode from The Soldier’s Tale to rewrite in a popular movie version.
- This piece was written in Russia, at the end of World War I and in the midst of the Russian Revolution. Times were very hard, and this is probably why there were only seven instruments. It also puts a soldier and the idea of “pre-war prices” in context. Add events from the Russian Revolution to your class timeline.
- While many Faust stories (stories about making a deal with the Devil) involve a cask of jewels or a bunch of gold, the Devil gives the soldier a glance into the economic future so he can invest wisely and make his fortune in that way. Study the stock market with our Stock Market Lesson Plans.
- The soldier plays cards with the Devil, losing all his wealth but getting back his gift of music, the opportunity for love, and his chance at happiness. Use this scene as a writing prompt for students to think about the relationship between money and happiness. Can money buy happiness? Does it prevent people from being happy?
A Soldier’s Tale is a wonderful way to introduce classical music — and something a bit different in the way of classical music — to your students along with an intriguing folktale with a lot of teachable moments.
At this writing, there are two entrepreneurship contests going on. Use them to focus your entrepreneurship lesson plans, or recreate them just for your class or school.
Interview an entrepreneur
The first is the Hot Shot Entrepreneurs Video Contest for students.This contest clebrates Entrepreneurship week (February 18-25 in 2012), and entries are due on February 13th. Click the link for the full rules of the contest.
This is essentially an oral history project. Students must identify an entrepreneur, interview him or her about business accomplishments and obstacles overcome, and produce a video to upload to YouTube.
Here’s how we see this project:
- Research local entrepreneurs through newspapers, online search, or visits to business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce or business incubators.
- Choose an entrepreneur and conduct further research on this individual.
- Write a letter or email requesting the interview.
- Prepare for the interview by developing questions.
- Conduct the interview.
- Get required permissions and upload the files, if taking part in the contest.
- Edit the video.
- Upload the video to YouTube.
- Send the submission forms electronically, if entering the contest.
That’s a lot of technology practice! Plenty of research, writing, and art as well. Students can work in small groups, gaining skills in collaboration as well.
If you’re not entering the contest, plan a day for students to share their videos with the class or the school.
There is also, at this writing, a contest to find the best new consumer products being run by Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. The “Get On the Shelf” contest, accepting entries till February 22, lets people vote for their favorite product, much as people vote for their favorite singer on American Idol. Just as the winner on that TV show gets a recording contract, the winner of “Get on the Shelf” will get a contract to sell their product.
Current entries include dog shoes and zombie repellant spray, so we see no reason that your class shouldn’t enter, or at least play along at home. Click the link above to see examples of video entries people have already created.
The plan here is to come up with an idea for a new product (an item people would buy) and to make a video showing how it works.
FreshPlans talked with the experts at 8th & Walton, a company that provides training for entrepreneurs who want to see their products on the shelves, and for suppliers. They told us that this contest was ” tremendous opportunity.” It can take years to get to see a Walmart buyer in the usual way, and inventors typically have just one chance to impress the buyer. They also told us that a new product invention needs to be really new, but also something that people want. It needs to be safe. It has to be possible to make the new product for a price people are willing to pay.
Have students begin by coming up with an idea for a product. One of the best ways to start inventing is to think of a problem that could be solved by a new invention. Brainstorm with the class to identify pet peeves that could be solved by something bought at a store. Examples of problems solved by inventions:
- Ordinary light bulbs use too much electricity.
- People get cold when they have to take their arms out of the blankets to use the remote control.
- Women have nowhere to put their purses when they’re eating at a restaurant.
- The Earl of Sandwich didn’t like to stop playing cards long enough to eat dinner.
- People get lost while driving, and can’t read a map while they drive.
Check out a collection of problems needing solutions if you need help thinking of ideas.
Once students have come up with an idea, they should do some market research. Draw a model, using SketchUp (you could then have a 3d print made) or classroom art supplies, and show it to lots of people, asking their opinions. Help students practice listening and taking notes instead of defending or explaining their products — paying attention to feedback is a useful skill! Students should also ask what people would be willing to pay for their inventions.
Have students incorporate the feedback into the invention and perfect their inventions. If possible, have students create a working prototype of the invention. If this is not practical, encourage students to be as realistic as possible in planning their inventions. They should, for example, think about what materials could be used to make the invention and how they could keep prices in line with what people would be willing to pay.
Now to make the video. SketchUp allows you to create 3d models and fly around them, as in this video from the “Get On the Shelf” site:
Students can also create live videos. If you’re not planning to enter the contest, students might enjoy making an infomercial type video, beginning with the problem they plan to solve and then showing the happy users of their imaginary product.
Art, technology, writing, critical thinking, and research skills are all required for this project.
Either of these contests — whether students actually enter or you just produce videos simulating the entries — will make a great introduction to entrepreneurship.