2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


DAVIS, Linda Lee, Geology Program, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, PO Box 195, Jimmie Leeds Road, Pomona, NJ 08240, linda.davis@stockton.edu

One of the most rewarding classes to teach to non-majors is Geology of National Parks, simply because so many students register with a surprising and genuine interest in learning about our national parks. Because of the variety of geologic terrains represented in our national parks, it is easy to teach such a well-populated class as an introductory geology course without a laboratory session. The geology of each park can serve to illustrate geologic processes, classification, or fundamental principles. Yet, something is missing. In this class a picture is worth a thousand words, and I cannot guess the number of words a hand sample “is worth.” Imagine the value of being at a place like the Grand Canyon or Zion when first describing bedding planes, rock layers, or cross-bedding to students with little geologic background. It is priceless.

A 4-week field-course was designed and linked to a pre-trip seminar, which is taught the prior term. The seminar allows total strangers who will in essence be living together under tough conditions to get to know each other. It also allows the faculty to winnow out students who are either physically or mentally unable to take a 4-week trip where camping, hiking, and group interaction are requirements. Restricting students from taking the class is very difficult, administration-wise; however, I find it to be extraordinarily important after having two very interesting problems develop the first time this course was run. The creativity of the faculty member is just as important as the personality and physical stature of the students. Numerous back-up activities need to be planned for, e.g., extra campsite reservations or fee waiver applications for other nearby parks should be completed. Well-made plans go awry on a regular basis due to group dynamics, road closures, and weather. A philosophy that worked well was to have a very detailed schedule that incorporates specific geologic activities for each park, days for hiking with no assignments, hiking with the group to complete assignments, laundry days, time for buying food etc., and time so that everyone can be alone if desired. Arguments can be made for leading the trip in early, middle, or late summer, but my experience is that early summer beats the extreme heat of western US, is before the heaviest tourism begins, and maybe beats many bear problems.