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

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


POWELL, Wayne G., Geology, Brooklyn College, CUNY, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210, wpowell@brooklyn.cuny.edu

Teaching geology in a liberal-arts context includes bridging other disciplines, as well as making meaningful connections between earth science and citizenship/culture. Most geology instructors, cannot become familiar with topics such as history, art history, and anthropology to a level that one can readily make meaningful cross-linkages. Fortunately, many colleges can access museums that house high-quality artifacts and highly accessible information on many such topics. One might not immediately think of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an obvious venue for a geology field trip, and yet it is filled with geological treasures. As a prelude to examining how the local geological resources shaped the urban development of New York City, in-service teachers investigated the geological character of archeological artifacts of ancient cultures. Students could ponder why Babylonian palace halls were decorated with alabaster, whereas temples of Rome and Greece were carved from marble. Why did the tribes of coastal sub-Saharan Africa use so few stone materials, just like the tribes of the American Pacific Northwest? With questions such as these, the art gallery experience translated directly into a discussion of regional geology, climate, variability of earth resources, and cultural dependence of these resources. To achieve a similar, but more directed aim, another group of in-service teachers were directed to investigate the Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples at the American Museum of Natural History. Students discovered that the peoples of Polynesia used mostly shell, coral and bone, and lived almost exclusively from the riches of the sea. The people of Micronesia employed more wood, and stone. Tribes of large islands such as the Philippines had very diverse artifacts that included metals, and farming was common. These observations were then placed in context of the plate tectonic map of the Pacific Ocean and students could discover how large-scale earth processes directly controlled the development of global cultures with the availability of such things as fertile soils and metals. With the great resources of the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth in the same museum, the lessons learned in the cultural halls could then be transferred directly to the science halls, thereby bridging what are often impassable divides.