Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 11:45 AM
THE VIRTUAL AND PHYSICAL TRAIL OF TIME: COMPLEMENTARY APPROACHES FOR TEACHING GEOLOGY AT THE NATIONAL PARKS
The spectacular geology exposed in the nation?s National Parks provides an unparalleled opportunity to introduce literally millions of visitors to Earth science in the broadest possible sense. In cooperation with the National Park Service, the National Science Foundation, and the American Geological Institute, we are developing a paired initiative involving physical geologic exhibits and computer-based virtual exhibits that together form an educational program entitled: ?The Trail of Time?. Initial efforts are at Grand Canyon and Colorado National Monument. We currently have an assessment program involving Park interpretive staff, science teachers, University students and K-12 students. The physical Trail of Time: At Grand Canyon, the core project involves a 4.6 km-long trail at the south rim, scaled so that one meter represents one million years of Earth history. The primary ?exhibit? is the Trail itself, focusing on the rocks exposed in the Grand Canyon. Visitors see the rocks and relationships that shape our current understanding of the Canyon?s history, beginning with the formation of the continent ~ 2 Ga and ending with geosocietal issues surrounding the interaction of humans with the Canyon. The ultimate goal is for visitors to walk through both the geology and the geologic history of the Canyon, and to gain an understanding of how geologic time is related to the rock record, fundamentals of Earth processes, and the vitality of the scientific method. The Trail of Time is designed to reach all levels of visitors, from children to other scientists. The virtual ?Trail of Time? is an interactive geology project: At Grand Canyon and other parks, we are constructing animations for both visitor center use and in CD-ROM/DVD formats, and eventually in multiple languages. These displays show geologic evolution with state-of-the-art 3-D ?fly-throughs? of geologic and topographic maps and animations of geologic processes and history (e.g. landscape evolution, sedimentation and stratigraphy, and tectonic evolution). Current modules focus on the sedimentary record. Interactive displays allow for users to explore based on their level of interest, and can adapted for classroom and visitor center use. The combination of a physical and a virtual exhibit at Parks, and the ability of each Park to highlight its primary geologic features, are both strengths of this combined format.