Field Trips in Urban Settings: Essential Experiences for Modern Geologists
I describe field trips, run in the context of introductory geology laboratories at West Chester University, which embrace the transformed landscape as a vital ingredient to teaching students geological principles. Our students typically come from suburban or urban settings, and this is increasingly true at U.S. institutions. Field trips are integrated into labs during the first two-thirds of the fall semester. Each trip occurs during a two-hour lab period; typically, one hour is indoors either preparing for, or analyzing observations from, the field trip. The labs and field trips explore human alteration in terms of time and space gradients. For example, in one lab students study a sequence of maps (colonial era, 1885, 1955, 2000) covering the modern campus. In the field they can appreciate what has changed through time (e.g., a stream now flows underground) and what has not (the larger-scale pattern of divides and hillslopes persists). In another lab they consider how the urbanized watersheds on campus impact streams farther away. These labs are also important because they help prepare our majors, who typically teach or are consulting geologists in southeastern PA.