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

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


WILSON, Greg, Geology, Grand Valley State Univ, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI 49401-9403, wilsong@gvsu.edu

Providing non-science majors with a field experience improves their understanding and appreciation of geology at a level not possible to achieve in the classroom. Students on field trips are truly active learners, exploring first-hand geological processes and features. Whether hiking up a glacial valley in the Tetons or squeezing through a sandstone joint in Canyonlands, students are developing memories that will last a lifetime. The Honors College at Grand Valley State University offers an introductory geology course for non-science majors, The Earth, a Global View. For the past two years students have been given the opportunity to experience geology in the field by enrolling in a special section of the course. This section met once a week during the Winter Semester and then concluded by taking a 2-3 week summer regional field trip to the western United States. For most of the students this was their first time traveling out west and their sense of exploration was a key motivational factor in learning about the area. Motivation was especially important because limited class time required a significant amount of independent learning.

During the summer of 2004, a group of 6 students traveled to the Grand Teton/Yellowstone region. This trip lasted 2 weeks and also included stops in the Badlands, the Black Hills, Devils Tower, and the Beartooth Mountains. The trip in the summer of 2005 was to the canyonlands region of southern Utah and northern Arizona. During this 3-week trip, 10 students hiked over 120 miles of trail while visiting 8 National Parks/Monuments (e.g., Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, and Grand Canyon). Nomadic living dominated the trips, traveling in passenger vans, and camping each night.

A benefit, particularly for teaching non-science majors is that in addition to the spectacular geology, the trips provide opportunities to integrate learning in other areas as well. The diverse trip localities exemplify how geology is linked to other natural and cultural systems. The National Parks offer numerous ways (visitor centers, ranger talks) for incorporating information on other natural sciences and history. A nomadic lifestyle also provides students with new learning experiences. Students are very enthusiastic about the overall experience these trips offer and most express a strong desire to return to these areas.