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Teacher’s Guide
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(2) Know Your Non-Renewables
(Activity courtesy of Washington State Department of Ecology Waste Reduction, Recycling and Litter Control Program)

Students will learn about the world’s supply of finite mineral resources and how these resources will be affected by rising population and consumption levels.

TV/VCR, beads, pennies, paper clips, pencil and paper.

Video clip:
Start at the beginning of the video and stop video after hearing: “...The water came from the slopes of the Cascade Mountains. And the electricity came from a dam on the Columbia River. Then I enjoyed my cup of coffee.” (same as for first activity)

The Earth contains a finite supply of mineral resources. To drive economic development, iron ore is needed to make steel, copper for electrical use, bauxite for aluminum, crude oil for gasoline and a plethora of other products, natural gas for heating homes and fueling industry.

World Reserve Base*
Paper clips

Iron Ore
270,000 million metric tons
Red beads


28,000 million metric tons

Copper 630 million metric tons
Blue beads

Crude Oil
1,007 billion barrels
Green beads

Natural Gas
4,934 trillion cubic feet
*Source: The World Almanac and Book of Facts

Hide the paper clips, pennies and beads throughout the classroom, keeping some colors in large groups to represent concentrated ore deposits. Hide some beads very well. To represent the world’s unequal distribution of population and resources, divide students into unequal groups of First, Second and Third World Groups. (For instance, a class of 25 students might have 4 students in the First World group, 7 students in the Second World group and 14 students in the Third World Group)

The rules for collecting the beads are:

* Students representing the First World get 60 seconds to look for the beads.
* Students representing the Second World get 20 seconds to look for the beads.
* Students representing the Third World get 5 seconds to look for the beads.


Although the differences between First World, Second World and Third World countries are changing-especially with the rise of large multinational mining corporations--the following definitions are still generally applicable.

First World countries are the nations that consume most of the world’s resources -- the U.S., Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, for instance. These countries have the money and political influence to mine the Earth for minerals. Representatives from these countries can afford to travel great distances to search for minerals.

Second World countries are less wealthy-Russia, Eastern European nations and China, for instance. Residents of these countries consume fewer goods, generally have a more moderate standard of living and have less cash/influence to buy/lease mining equipment.

Third World countries like Mexico, many Central American nations and African nations are extremely poor, and poverty and hunger are common. Citizens of these countries can’t afford to travel far to explore for minerals, and often do not have the means to mine the resources they do have. Frequently, when mineral resources are found in Third World countries, they are mined and exported by First and Second World countries.

Discussion options:

(a) Discuss common uses for the resources used in the activity.

(b) How do students feel about the number of beads they found--(i.e.) the resources they have access to ? How would students utilize the resources they have found? How would they gain access to resources they need but don’t have access to?

(c) What might happen if a rich mineral resource is found by people who do not have the means--or the desire--to mine it? For a look at bauxite mining in various countries, see

(d) Consider the effects of population growth on our ability to use finite resources. Who will gain access to the resources? Why?

(e) Consider the effects of mining on the landscape. How are iron ore, bauxite and copper mined? How is crude oil and natural gas accessed? Try starting at the “HandiLinks( To Bauxite & Aluminum Ore Mining” site at

(f) Consider the possibilities of what to do about local and future shortages of resources.

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