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

Paper No. 15
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM


DORSCH, Joachim, Physical Sciences, St. Louis Community College at Meramec, 11333 Big Bend Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63122-5799, jdorsch@stlcc.edu

Johannes Walther (1860–1937) is today best known for his fundamental contributions to process sedimentology and paleoecology. These contributions include the elaboration of facies changes; the interpretation of ancient depositional environments based on comparison with actualistic analogues; the process-based work on desert environments; and the delineation of the importance of biology for geology. Less well known are Walther’s interests in and contributions to geoscience education. As a university lecturer and professor in Jena and Halle (Germany) Walther was involved in the teaching of students and the training of future professional geologists. He offered special summer courses for teachers to foster continuing education. In addition, he wrote several popular geology books, which enjoyed a wide circulation among non-geologists and were published (in part) to popularize geology. Of further significance for geoscience education was Walther’s engagement for the teaching of geology as part of the regular precollege education. His book Bau und Bildung der Erde (Structure and Formation of the Earth), published in 1925, provides a comprehensive overview of general geology and the historical geology of Germany. In part three of this book, Walther addresses the role of geology in precollege general education. He maintains that geology must be the central part of science education starting at an early grade level and that the other sciences should be added at later grade levels. The teaching of geology should be grounded in the students’ familiarity with the immediate geographic region. Walther argues that the curriculum must emphasize geologic processes and careful observations; that students should be encouraged to conduct their own observations and perform scientific measurements in the field. At a later stage in the students’ education they should be able to interrelate their knowledge of the diverse scientific fields to form a unified view of the natural world with geology in the center making the genetic-historical connections to the other sciences. This science education provided to students also requires an emphasis on geology and geological pedagogy in the teacher training at colleges, for which Walther also provides detailed curriculum recommendations.