2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


D'ALESSIO, Matthew A., United States Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Rd, MS977, Menlo Park, CA 94025, dalessio@usgs.gov

Wish you could take more field trips? You can! Student understanding takes leaps and bounds when given the opportunity to observe and discover geology in the field, but concerns over logistics and the availability of nearby outcrops limit many teachers from including a regular field component into their classes. Geologic field trips exist for urban areas, particularly focusing on stone facades of public buildings made of fine granite, limestone, or sandstone. I assert that a similar philosophy can be used to explore more humble urban surroundings like college campuses and elementary school playgrounds. I have developed a series of activities available on the web that are adaptable to elementary school through college classrooms. These activities illustrate how teachers can get their students outside the classroom and into the "field." Many geologic concepts have analogs in modern day construction techniques and materials. For example, multiple layers of pavement illustrate superposition; sewer line excavations demonstrate excellent cross-cutting relationships; and school blacktop surfaces frequently show "glacial" striations where brooms are used to distribute tar surfacing. Students might be more familiar with the processes that led to the construction of their urban landscape, which occurs on a timescale that they can easily grasp. Like geologic processes, urban construction leaves behind evidence of the processes that were at work. By teaching students to look for that evidence and illustrating the parallels between modern construction and natural geologic processes, teachers can integrate an exciting field aspect to almost any class anywhere. In addition to teaching geologic concepts, this exercise encourages students to think about how the world around them got to look the way that it does – the essence of scientific inquiry.