Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


WHISNER, Jennifer K., Dept. of Geography and Geosciences, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, 400 E 2nd ST, Bloomsburg, PA 17815 and VENN, Cynthia, Department of Environmental, Geographical, and Geological Sciences, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, 400 E 2nd Street, Bloomsburg, PA 17815,

Bloomsburg University lies above the Susquehanna River in the northeastern Pennsylvania Valley and Ridge, within easy driving distance of the Pennsylvania anthracite coal fields, and within the limits of Pleistocene glaciation. It is ideally situated to offer students in our 100-level Environmental Geology course a 3-4 hour field trip touching on structural geology, stratigraphy, mass wasting, land use, glacial geology, flooding, regional history, coal mining and its after effects, acid mine drainage, subsidence, and alternative energy.

Between 90 and 120 students register for Environmental Geology, which is offered every semester. The department receives university support for smaller class sizes, so students are generally in classes of 30 to 50. Most students are from this region (Central and Eastern PA, NY, and NJ) and are non-science majors taking the course to fulfill General Education requirements for science and math. We give up a week of class in order to offer the field trip, which usually overlaps times when the classes are held. Multiple field trip times are offered during the week, and students travel by bus. The field trip traverses stream terraces, the Susquehanna flood plain, valleys and ridges, farm land that may soon be turned into developments, a water supply area for the southern anthracite coal fields, roadsides subject to mass wasting, and streams affected by acid mine drainage. We also make stops in Centralia, PA (famous for its mine fire) where we discuss the history of coal mining in the area and the effects of the mine fire, as well as a relatively new wind farm occupying a nearby ridge. Students also get a brief tour of the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine

Making the connection between the classroom and the world outside the university is important for these students, many of whom will receive little other exposure to courses in the natural sciences. In informal discussions, students report being surprised at how much geology relates to the world around them, and more than two thirds of students responding to an anonymous survey agreed that that the field trip helped them make this connection. The field trip is effective as both an introduction to and a reinforcement of concepts discussed in class. It is also a touchstone, to which we repeatedly return in class discussions.