Students at the Emerald Village Gem Mine.

The mountains of Western North Carolina are home to a variety of gem mines that play a valuable role in our everyday life. First graders at W.D. Williams Elementary toured one of the retired mines known as the Bon Ami at Emerald Village in Little Switzerland. 

The Bon Ami mine opened around 1924 where crews worked to harvest a mineral known as Feldspar. This ingredient was used in the once popular Bon Ami scouring cleanser. Today, it is still used in many items such as porcelain. 

Students saw first hand some of the tools used in the mine, how the rocks and minerals glow under a blacklight, and even did some gem mining of their own. 

“We’ve been studying about rocks and minerals so this trip really brought everything to life for the students as they were able to see first hand what they had been learning about in class,” said teacher Catharine Laufer. “For many this was their first time to gem mine.”

Ms. Laufer says it’s experiences like this that help the students make connections outside the classroom. 

“Being able to experience this in person provided a meaningful opportunity so students could touch, feel and see the rocks we've been studying in class,” she said. “Attending this field trip exposed them to the larger world and allowed them to explore and gain a better understanding of the concepts they've learned in the classroom.”

Student holding a rock in the Bon Ami mine.