Southeastern Section - 50th Annual Meeting (April 5-6, 2001)

Paper No. 0
Presentation Time: 8:20 AM


MCKINNEY, Marjorie J., Geology Department, Appalachian State Univ, Boone, NC 28608,

Guest visits by geologists to elementary and high school classes are opportunities to open new horizons to students but can be challenging to organize. Stimulating interest and teaching some aspect of geology in a short period of time can be met by showing students how to draw basic information from rocks.

Using the analogy of reading a book sets the stage for showing students how to "read" what rocks have to tell us. The students know that they must understand the meaning of letters, words, and sentences in order to interpret what they read in a book. Likewise, there are some basic elements that must be recognized and understood to interpret rocks. A brief description of common minerals and rocks, showing large samples for illustration, provides some basic geological information. Then, students (working individually) are given rocks to examine and instructed to consider all aspects of that rock. A list of observations, recorded as "data", is made for all to see. After that, students, as a group, develop interpretations based on their observations, the preliminary information presented to them, and from their own experience and prior knowledge. Large samples of rocks that illustrate interesting histories are shown and students are encouraged to interpret them.

This approach has been more satisfactory than the more traditional rock/mineral identification session. All the participants tend to get involved and enjoy trying to make interpretations. They are able to understand some of the basic ways that geologists study rocks and types of information geologists seek from them. Rocks, for these students, are not merely interesting objects but have stories to tell that can be understood with even a little geological information.