Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:15 PM


BENTLEY, Callan, Geology, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale, VA 22003 and BERQUIST, Peter J., Geology Department, Thomas Nelson Community College, 99 Thomas Nelson Dr, Hampton, VA 23670,

Field-based instruction is an effective technique for teaching geoscience. The Geology Departments at Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale campus) and Thomas Nelson Community Colleges have been providing a robust two-week field course for five years. Alternating between Rocky Mountain locations in the United States (Montana, Wyoming) and Canada (Alberta, British Columbia), this endeavor has required the development of both formal and informal collaborations with institutions both academic and commercial.

Student evaluations, post-trip surveys, and informal observation suggest that field-based learning offers multiple benefits to students. It provides hands-on learning opportunities that reinforce content from standarad lecture/lab courses and expand students' conception of geologic history beyond a Mid-Atlantic provincialism. Further, we find that the course increases student engagement, develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills, facilitates collaborative work among peers, and fosters a sense of camaraderie. One student let us know about the 2013 course that "This course has been the greatest learning experience I have had in my life so far." This talk will detail some of the partnerships that make it happen.

We find that partnerships with other institutions give students a greater diversity of resources and perspectives. From arranging for bear spray to recruiting otherwise-unoccupied local geology professors to join our ranks, we have stories to tell that may inspire our two-year college colleagues to put together field courses of their own. We maintain that field based experiences and multiple instructors (for extended field courses) are appropriate, beneficial, and essential in all geoscience programs. The partnership between our schools, host institutions in the Rockies, and collaborators from our home state can serve as a model for future field course development.