Northeastern Section (45th Annual) and Southeastern Section (59th Annual) Joint Meeting (13-16 March 2010)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:55 PM


BEMBENIC, Meredith A.1, HARTWELL, Bradley J.1, ENDRESS, Chira A.2, GUERTIN, Laura3 and FURMAN, Tanya4, (1)Energy and Mineral Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, (2)Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16801, (3)Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063, (4)Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 333 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802,

The rock cycle is the foundation for many fundamental concepts in Earth Science curricula. We present an approach to teaching the rock cycle that encourages students to think beyond the simplified graphical representations often seen in textbooks. Students use Microsoft PowerPoint to design an interactive, geologically rational story that links several different processes and transitions found within the rock cycle for a selected trio of rocks. The instructor carefully chooses the rocks in advance so that their chemical and mineralogical features can be related using reasonable geological and tectonic processes. After exploring and recording the identifying rock and mineral properties, students complete a story outline for these rocks that maps out the possible pathways through which they may be related at different stages of the rock cycle. The complexity of the story can be scaled to be appropriate for the degree of student understanding, ranging for example from tracking simple isochemical metamorphic changes to documenting the evolving sedimentary facies during closure of an ocean basin. The storyline is expanded into interactive slides that link all possible transitions or pathways for each of the given rocks. The slides also feature short narratives written by the students that highlight the identifying properties of each rock and its mineral constituents at the different stages. These slides allow the reader to determine the theoretically endless fate of the specified rock materials, which thus empowers the reader to create their own rock cycle adventure. After designing the rock cycle story, students must peer-review other stories for geological feasibility. Instructors can modify the assignment requirements according to their individual classrooms, and they can similarly tailor this assignment to teach any of Earth’s cycles (e.g., carbon, nitrogen, water). This assignment can also be used as a vehicle for older students to interact with younger students about the rock cycle and provides an opportunity for students to use technology to demonstrate their content knowledge in a creative manner.