2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Paper No. 207-9
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM-10:30 AM

WEST MICHIGAN'S WATER WONDERLAND: A NATURAL LABORATORY FOR TEACHING LOCAL HYDROLOGY AND GEOLOGY

RIEMERSMA, Peter E., Department of Geology, Grand Valley State University, 145 Padnos Hall of Science, Allendale, MI 49401, riemersp@gvsu.edu and NEAL, William J., Department of Geology, Grand Valley State Univ, 121 Padnos Hall of Science, Allendale, MI 49401

Grand Valley State University, located in west Michigan, an area of subtle topography, devoid of outcrops, with a short field season, is populated by students who are “parochial” in interests and experience. “Living with the Great Lakes,” a general education course tailored to utilize the local geology, is taught from a regional point of view, rather than the traditional global view of geology. Beginning with concepts of drainage basins and the hydrologic cycle, the course focuses on hydrology to introduce geologic principles, as well as issues with which our students should be familiar. Rather than a standard textbook, use of a course pack allows selection of topics appropriate to local issues and on a “need to know basis” (e.g., the existence of fossil coral in Michigan is used to introduce the concept of plate tectonics). In addition, media articles are incorporated to establish the relevance of topics and capture students’ attention (e.g., erosion during times of high lake level). Such local issues lend themselves to bringing in local speakers at minimum cost.

Although a “non-laboratory” course, students conduct scientific investigations via a half-day cruise aboard the vessel ANGUS, and a field trip to the Lake Michigan shore. On the cruise, students measure sediment and water quality parameters in Lake Michigan, the Grand River, and a small urbanized lake. Data are synthesized, graphed, and interpreted in a series of exercises to lead the students through the scientific method (e.g., they are asked to postulate why the concentration of dissolved oxygen differs between the three water bodies). Students attending the beach trip develop and test hypotheses on subjects introduced in class (e.g., they hypothesize how the grain size might change from beach to dune, and then sieve samples in the field to test their hypothesis). These field trips are supplemented with in-class exercises. In an exercise that examines nearby glacial geology, students are distraught to learn that thousands of years ago they could have walked from campus to the larger ancestral great lake shoreline; a trip which now requires a car or a 20-mile hike. Developing such course material requires commitment but not surprisingly we have found it easier to generate student interest in geological issues that they personally find relevant.

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. 524

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