Will Wonders Never Cease? Stone Cold Lightning

article by Zoë Disher , photo "Low Tide Lightning" by James Loesch is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Learning intention:

I am learning to identify the way mineral names are created so that I can develop my understanding of etymology.

Success criteria:

  • I can make connections between mineral names and their origins
  • I can research and write information about a mineral of my choice
  • I can write an explanation of the etymology of my chosen mineral

After reading the article, watch the videos Strangest Weather on Earth: Fulgurite and Gemstones Made From Lightning (Fulgurite). Discuss what students find interesting about fulgurite. Ask if they have ever heard the word ‘fulgurite’ before and discuss ideas about where it may originate from. Explain that fulgurite is a mineral and that minerals are naturally occurring solids that are made up of chemicals.

Other examples of minerals that students may be familiar with include gold, copper and zinc. However, many minerals actually end with the suffix ‘ite’. Explain to students that ‘fulgur’ is the Latin word for lightning, and ‘ite’ is a common suffix used for minerals that means ‘connected with or belonging to’.

Instruct students to research and write an information report of a mineral of their choice. Their report should address the following questions:

  • What is the name of the mineral?
  • What is the etymology of the name?
  • How is the mineral formed?
  • What is the mineral used for?
  • What else do you find interesting about it?

Helpful websites for this research include:

University of Waterloo’s Earth Sciences Museum


Britannica Kids - Minerals

Once students have completed their reports, create a class table to display the names of the different minerals researched by students and their etymology.