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

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 5:15 PM


COOKE, Michele1, DEL CASTELLO, Mario1, JEPSON, Patricia2, MARSHALL, Scott1, SALAMOFF, Scotty3 and SOLUM, John4, (1)Geosciences, Univ of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-9297, (2)College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 4090, (3)Department of Earth Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, (4)U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Rd., MS977, Menlo Park, CA 94025, cooke@geo.umass.edu

UMass researchers have linked with six schools for the deaf around the country to introduce high school students to structural geology. Specifically, the project investigates the 3D evolution of fault systems and is supported by the outreach component of an NSF CAREER grant to Cooke. The analysis of 3D fault systems requires adept observation, spatial and pattern recognition skills. While hearing students often have great difficulty mastering these skills, students who use American Sign Language (ASL), a spatial language, as their primary language are already skilled at 3D thinking.

To date, two components of the project have been implemented: in Spring 2005, 10 classrooms conducted sandbox experiments of fault growth and, in May, 20 students explored active and ancient faults in central Utah with a team of geologists. In both activities students recorded their observations as labeled sketches, collected measurements and interacted with structural geologists. For the sandbox experiments, we discussed the results with the students via videoconferencing technology. Student sketches proved to be an important aid for communication between students and teachers. The measurements were used to describe the 3D relationships between different faults. Interaction with structural geologists provided the students with both an avenue to ask questions and a window on the geologic community.

During both the sandbox experiments and the field trip, the ASL-using high school students quickly grasped complex 3D concepts (e.g. strike and dip) that are often challenging for hearing undergraduates. Even on their first exposure to geology in the field, the ASL-using students made insightful observations about fault topology and were able to represent horizontal contacts on topographic maps.

A UConn study surveys how the students' perceptions of science and geology have changed with involvement in the sandbox experiments and field trip. Students are expected to give more consideration to science as a major after having hands-on experience with real-world geology activities and interaction with geologists, who may serve as role models. We hope that exposure to interesting problems in structural geology and realization that their skills are well suited to this field might encourage more deaf students to pursue geology in college.