2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM


PHINNEY, Robert A.1, SIGMAN, Daniel2 and ONSTOTT, Tullis C.2, (1)Geosciences, Princeton Univ, Princeton, NJ 08544, (2)Department of Geosciences, Princeton Univ, Princeton, NJ 08544, rphinney@princeton.edu

Field programs have traditionally been taught to mid-level undergraduates, following their commitment to a Geology major and a basic menu of professional coursework. Typically, entering students have virtually no decent background in the earth sciences, and tend to move toward better known majors; even science-inclined students and engineers do not consider Geology. The Princeton program of Freshman Seminars permits us the opportunity of taking 20 applicants on a 9-day field program during fall break. Since most of our freshmen come from an urbanized region in the east, we introduce them to Geology by taking them to the Long Valley region in California.

The course title "Active Geological Processes" is a natural outcome of a trip to this area. Volcanism, earthquakes, faulting, glaciation, landsliding, and rapid geomorphic evolution are evident to the beginner. Salient aspects of the pedagogy are: (1) "knock their socks off" exposure to this area; (2) each day's effort is localized around one site; (3) students keep a field notebook, with observations, discussions, and field sketching combined. The textbook serves as a resource. A great deal of catch-up learning occurs on the outcrop with the active coaching of the instructors. For 20 students, we need 4-5 instructors to keep the student-teacher interactions alive.

The main purpose is to offer a course which embodies a pedagogically powerful means of introducing students to the earth sciences... one which is often described as "my best experience at Princeton"... and which can communicate to the University community as a whole the nature of our subject. It is clearly oriented as a recruiting tool, but only as a natural consequence of the course experience.

From a 14-year experience with the Long Valley trip, we have been able to elicit University funding for an Oceanography trip to Bermuda [2003] and a new trip to Yellowstone with a focus on geologically extreme life environments.

Conclusions: [1] We strongly recommend an intensive field experience as the introductory stage in geological education, when other constraints permit; [2] Approximately 2-4 of each cadre of 20 go on to become departmental majors; [3] These programs have had an important role in increasing the visibility and positive "buzz" of the department with both students and faculty in the University as a whole.