Southeastern Section - 60th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2011)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 4:50 PM


BARTHOLOMEW-STAPLES, Ashley D., Department of Geology, Appalachian State University, ASU BOX 32607, Boone, NC 28607, HECKERT, Andrew B., Dept. of Geology, Appalachian State University, ASU Box 32067, Boone, NC 28608 and CARMICHAEL, Sarah K., Dept. of Geology, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608,

As a student, learning about geologic processes is difficult while confined to a desk, reading from a textbook, or even studying hand samples. While visiting geologically diverse locations would be ideal, limitations such as weather, travel expenses and class size are serious impediments to these field experiences. An interactive website provides an alternative avenue of learning valuable aspects of geology using pictures and graphics, rather than text, as the primary source of information. At Appalachian State University, the Fred Webb, Jr. Outdoor Geology Laboratory (“rock garden”) was built using boulders from four different states as examples of diverse stratigraphic units and geologic processes. Encompassing all three rock types, the specimens range in age from Mesoproterozoic to Pennsylvanian. Geared toward students of all ages and various disciplines, the rock garden simultaneously serves as an outdoor classroom, museum, study hall and aesthetic retreat for the public, thus becoming a learning tool for anyone or any group that visits.

The Interactive Rock Garden ( augments these physical exhibits with a more in-depth view of the various specimens, integrating images of not only the whole rock but also magnified and microscopic views, timelines, tectonic settings, rock cycle originations, analytical data, locality maps, and economic impacts. These are accessible using distinctive icons on “buttons” for each rock in a clear and informative fashion intended to be language-independent as an aid in educating students by providing additional visual information of the material.

With the aid of the Interactive Rock Garden, students are exposed to not just the basics of geology, but also the connections between different aspects of their environment. K-12 teachers can take their students on a virtual field trip to the garden without leaving the classroom; aiding those with limited hand samples or travel opportunities. It is also designed to serve as an active and engaging source of education for both those unable to visit the garden in person and visiting guests. With Wi-Fi readily available, visitors of the rock garden have access to the information without the clutter of extensive signage.