I started this lesson by asking my students their favorite Minecraft mining methods.
I gave them some time to discuss, then share a few with the class. I then connected their ideas to actual mining using a Mining Methods Google Slide. If you have any trouble, you could also use this Mining Methods PDF.
I explained that they would be comparing three different mining methods, and their impact on the environment.
Next I passed out a Mining for Ore Investigation Sheet and two toothpicks to each student. I explained that these were their mining tools, and these were the only things they were allowed to use for mining, and just like in real life, if you equipment breaks down, you can't use it to mine anymore. I had them write toothpicks on the first box of the investigation sheet, "Tool Used."
Then I got out the chocolate chip cookies. After settling them down, I told them their cookies represent the land, and the chocolate chips are ore deposits. I let them know they would be able to eat their cookies when they were done, but not until I let them know. I placed a cookie on the first Mineral Deposit box. I told them they had 3 minutes to mine, placing the ore in the Ore Deposit box. I set a timer, and got them started.
Following their mining, I told them mining companies are required to "reclaim" the land the mine, so they now had one minute to put the land back together. This is a great moment for the kids that pulverized their land.
I repeated this process using craft sticks for trial 2, and paperclips for trial 3. I was going to straighten the paperclips first, but I had a few kids that wanted to keep them as they were, so maybe leave it up to them.
Taking time to connect this activity to the real world is critical to this lesson. I asked them to look over the three areas of land they mined, and to compare their land to their neighbors. I gave them some time to share what they noticed, and then asked them to consider how this model is like real life, using guiding questions such as "How would a mining company mine if they really wanted to preserve the land as best they could?" and "What mining methods might they use if they just wanted to make sure they extract the most ore?"