2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Paper No. 207-5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-9:15 AM

GEOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING RESIDES IN LOCAL PLACES

SEMKEN, Steven, Department of Geological Sciences, Arizona State Univ, POB 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, scsemken@alum.mit.edu.

Places, which are localities given meaning by human experiences in them, are integral to most if not all knowledge systems of Native American peoples. Indigenous ways of teaching imbue Native youth with a strong sense of place: understanding of, and identification with, the attributes and dynamics of their natural and cultural environment. Sense of place does not necessarily manifest itself in proportionate Native American (and other indigenous minority) enrollments in undergraduate geoscience, perhaps in part because physical geology is typically organized by processes and materials, and historical geology by time. Indigenous students may not identify with either system. Places, which may have meaning for Native students for non-geological reasons, are seen as figure captions and sidebars. In some cases, places may be presented in unfamiliar or even abhorrent contexts, such as mining or waste disposal on lands held sacred.

“Place studies” of significant localities within an indigenous homeland can be organized into geoscience courses that meet a basic meta-objective of teaching geological reasoning through inquiry. A principal difference is that the geological attributes of the homeland will control the course content. By means of a learning-cycle approach, students can re-introduce themselves to a locality through geological exploration, and derive key dynamic principles such as relative time or rock-forming processes in subsequent stages. Examples of this approach in the context of Native American homelands in Arizona and environs will be presented. Where an indigenous homeland has undergone significant physical and cultural change, field-based “place studies” may be better supplanted by virtual studies, now made possible by instructional technology, that help students visualize a region’s pre-conquest geography.

Any introductory student residing in a given region can benefit from this approach, whether Native American or not. Geological understanding of the signature places of one’s home (e.g., the Grand Canyon in Arizona; Cascade volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest) is, or should be, part of one’s cultural literacy.

2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Session No. 207
Teaching Local Geology: An NAGT Session In Honor of Robert Christman
Washington State Convention and Trade Center: 2A
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 35, No. 6, September 2003, p. 523

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