FIELD STUDIES COURSES IN THE GEOSCIENCES: A GREAT TOOL TO MAXIMIZE STUDENT AWARENESS OF MULTIPLE, RELATED CONCEPTS
Our department offers faculty and students the opportunity to participate in such exercises in local, national, and international field courses, and we currently are expanding the offerings with great success. Examples of geological and geographical regions examined in these courses currently include Austria, Australia, British Columbia, the central Appalachians, and the Grand Canyon, and future offerings will include Iceland, Japan, Mexico, the Great Lakes region, among others. The principle focus in such course offerings is to show the complex interrelationship among problems geoscientists are asked to solve in the their jobs and to illustrate how a diversified educational background greatly increases their ability to perform their analyses.
In our experiences with field courses, several items need to be carefully defined to allow the class to run smoothly and to allow all students to enjoy and learn from the experience. Advance planning is critical to prevent major disruptions in the travel and topics to be analyzed, particularly in foreign countries. Topics for student projects and field exercises must be selected to allow for those students with fewer background classes to succeed as well as those with stronger backgrounds. Establishing a balance between structured, academic time or projects and free time for students to explore their surroundings and ask questions about what they see has proven to be important. We will provide examples of how we organize such courses, the types of projects or exercises we use to prepare them before leaving for the field as well as what is done in the field. Finally, we will discuss how we attempt to improve these courses, particularly using our British Columbia course as a model.