Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mining: Cupcake Core Samples

Following one of the mining activities, begin a discussion about of the cost of mining… it’s too expensive to just dig a hole in the ground in hopes of finding gold… how could a mine operator determine what’s in there before going through the expense of digging…

Prep Work:
Prepare cupcakes – one for each student. You’ll want to get the foil cupcake “papers” – you don’t want the students to see through the paper.

Begin with a white cake mix. Mix the batter according to the directions. Before placing the batter into cupcake papers, divide the batter into several different bowls. Color the batter in each bowl a different color. Make the cupcakes by placing spoonfuls of at least 2 colors of batter into the cupcake paper. After baking, frost the cupcakes.

Layers of clay
Apple Corer
Straws, cut in half
Plastic knives

Brainstorm ideas for finding out what’s under the earth’s surface without digging.

Demonstrate core sampling with layers of clay and the apple corer.

Each student will get a cupcake and a straw to do some core sampling.

Students use the straws to “drill” in three spots across the middle of the cupcake (the holes need to be made in a line across the cupcake, not a triangle). After the sample’s been drilled, gently blow the sample out of the straw.

Students draw their observations of each sample. (By the way, I've never had the core samples fall apart as badly as they did this time - the cupcakes didn't sit for as long as they usually do and I think that made the difference).

After taking and recording three samples, students make a hypothesis about what the cross-section of the cupcake looks like.

Students use a plastic knife to cut through the cupcake (through the 3 holes) to view the cross-section.

Students draw their observations before eating the evidence.


Compare evidence with hypothesis.
Thoughts on the lab.


  1. I'm going to try this with my 9th graders this week. I don't have an apple corer or potato borer, so I'm going to show images of actual soil cores, assuming I can find some on the internet. I hope all goes according to plan!! :)

  2. We did this activity today. The kids did great with it, but making cupcakes with different colors was more prep time than the concept was worth. On the plus side, the kids thought it was awesome to see the different colors and then predict what the cross-section would look like. Many of them made good predictions and saw the benefit of sampling before mining. :)