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Three-dimensional, magnetic representations of SiO tetrahedra and cations are manipulated on a chalkboard to create five basic silicate structures. Students are expected to complete a worksheet accompanying the exercise, which addresses silicate structures, bond types and strengths, physical properties (e.g. fracture, cleavage), Si:O ratio and introduction to vocabulary such as "felsic" and "mafic," and mineral formulae. The worksheet and chalkboard demonstration are designed to simplify silicate structures from complex ball-and-stick models typically used in textbook figures, and to grant students a visual, three-dimensional, manipulable, perspective on what tends to be a confusing concept. This exercise may be simplified or expanded to suit timeframe and the needs of the audience. Benefits of this approach include reinforcement of lecture concepts, broad appeal for a student group with multiple learning styles and degrees of knowledge, and strengthened understanding of the silicate structures.
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