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

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


WOLFE, Benjamin A. and MARTIN, Todd, Department of Natural Sciences, Metropolitan Community College-Blue River, 20301 E. 78 Highway, Independence, MO 64057, benjamin.wolfe@mcckc.edu

Two-year colleges serve diverse groups of students including non-majors taking geology as a physical science transfer requirement for four-year schools, students pursuing vocational program degrees, and second career, non-traditional students. Challenges often arise in overcoming these students' pre-conceived negative attitudes and lower confidence in science by finding effective and engaging ways to teach basic scientific principles. Incorporating a field study in an introductory science curriculum can provide the opportunity to make earth science exciting and interesting. As an added benefit, field experiences provide an opportunity for students to refine observation and inquiry skills beyond the normal set of laboratory exercises and classroom lectures. Trips can also serve as a recruitment tool for geology programs, as several students have gone on to pursue earth-science related degrees at four-year institutions. These students have credited their field experiences at the two-year college as an inspiration for this decision.

We have developed a very active multidisciplinary field trip program varying from local day trips to a 12-day extended field study specifically designed for non-science majors. Our experience is that field study courses are a very effective way to bring science to life through hands-on interaction and “real world” examples, which in turn stimulate student interest in the sciences. These trips are designed to incorporate both geological and biological topics illustrating the cross-discipline nature of science education. Field studies are inquiry based and encourage students to ask questions about nature, formulate methods for answering those questions, and critically evaluate the answers they obtain. Each trip focuses on common goals: recognition of basic geologic features, the environmental implication of these geologic features, the relationship between geology and biology, and developing a greater appreciation of science and the environment.