2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 36-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


WHITMEYER, Shelley J., Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, 395 S. High Street, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, VA 22807 and DEBRUN, Guy, University Recreation, James Madison University, 800 SOUTH MAIN STREET, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, whitm2sj@jmu.edu

Field experiences provide exceptional learning opportunities for geoscience majors, but what about the non-majors in our introductory classes? Non-majors can benefit from improved problem solving skills and motivation related to field experiences. However, there are logistical reasons that non-majors are excluded from field experiences. Many introductory classes are large, making it logistically difficult and expensive to run a trip, and there is a perception that the students do not have enough conceptual knowledge to understand complex processes in the real world.

We initiated a field trip in an introductory oceanography class at James Madison University (JMU). There were 94 students in the class. About 60% of the class choose to participate in the field trip. During the trip students canoed around a small lake and measured water temperature, dissolved oxygen, water depth, and inflow to the lake. The logistics of transporting canoes and providing a safe environment for the students would have been challenging for 1 faculty member; however, by partnering with the JMU University Recreation Adventure Program, the trip was feasible. The Adventure Program provided the canoes and supervision so that the instructor only needed to manage academic activities during the trip.

Data were collected with iPads using the ArcGIS Collector app. The main benefits of using ArcGIS Collector were the (1) ability to combine student data and (2) ease of use. Most students were able to collect 5-20 data points during the trip, which was not sufficient to accurately characterize the lake. However, after the trip the data collected by all the students (almost 400 measurements) were available online. The students could access the data with the ArcGIS Collector app. With these data the students were able to identify a thermocline and calculate the residence time of the lake.

The students seemed to appreciate the opportunity to learn outside the classroom. On the post-trip survey all of the students responded that they enjoyed the trip. When asked how the trip could be improved the two most common responses were ‘no improvement needed’ (33%) and ‘more time’ (23%).