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Kim Preshoff


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Chemistry, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Video, 4 minutes, 55 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Interactive Media
  • Article
  • Assessment

Regional Focus


What's a Smartphone Made Of?

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  • This animated video explains the prevalence of smartphones and that the process of making them has many environmental costs. 
  • Students will learn about the chemical elements that are used to make smartphones, the risks associated with mining these elements, the side effects of throwing these items away instead of recycling e-waste, and other impacts of smartphone production that promote climate change and habitat destruction. 
Teaching Tips


  • The text and visual aids in the video help reinforce important concepts. 
  • This resource touches on a topic that is relatable to many students and explores a wide range of smartphone implications, from the extraction of elements to justice issues surrounding e-waste. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • For students who are less familiar with metric measurements, teachers might do a quick conversion from kilograms to pounds to help students conceptualize the amount of precious metals used in smartphones. 
  • Students must create a free account in order to use the interactive features of the site. 


  • Because there are many important terms in the video, teachers could ask students to use a graphic organizer while they watch the video to take notes on specific vocabulary meanings such as precious metals, rare-earth elements, and open pit mining.
  • Before watching the video, teachers could ask students to reflect on their own associations with smartphones and what hidden costs they predict might be correlated with smartphones.
  • Other resources on this topic include this article about the impacts of cryptocurrency on the climate and this video that discusses the link between the Internet and energy usage. 
Scientist Notes
The products we buy often have hidden environmental costs that we do not think about. One such product is a smartphone, which requires rare-earth elements and precious metals (that are often mined and cause pollution) to function. Please note that multiple sources say that as of 2021 there are over 6 billion smartphone users in the world. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
      • HS-ESS3-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
      • HS-ESS3-3 Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.
    • PS1: Matter and its Interactions
      • MS-PS1-3 Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Economics
      • D2.Eco.1.9-12 Analyze how incentives influence choices that may result in policies with a range of costs and benefits for different groups.
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.6.9-12 Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.6.6-8 Draw on multiple disciplinary lenses to analyze how a specific problem can manifest itself at local, regional, and global levels over time, identifying its characteristics and causes, and the challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address the problem.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
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