GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 18-11
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


DAHL, Robyn Mieko1, HANCOCK, Leanne G.2, COYNE, Gary2 and DROSER, Mary L.2, (1)Department of Geology, Western Washington University, 516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225, (2)Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, 900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA 92521,

Field-based summer programs have been shown to greatly increase interest in the geosciences. Miller et al. (2007) found that summer field experiences were highly effective in garnering interest in the geosciences among Latino youth with a strong interest in science and math. As part of an NSF-GEOPATHS grant program and in an effort to increase recruitment of underrepresented minority students into the geosciences, the University of California, Riverside (UCR) has partnered with Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) to create a field camp in Death Valley National Park for high school juniors and seniors. Because earth sciences courses are not offered in RUSD schools, students are recruited from AP Environmental Science classes. In the first year, the camp took place over RUSD’s spring break and twenty-eight students attended. In following years, the camp will take place over a long weekend in March and we anticipate similar attendance numbers.

During this five day camp, students use the national park as an outdoor laboratory to learn about the region’s geologic history and unique desert ecology. Because a majority of the students have never camped or visited a national park before, they also learn camping and outdoors skills. The program design emphasizes an exploratory, constructivist approach in which students learn how to interpret natural landscapes through detailed observation. We also include one-on-one discussion opportunities, so that students get the chance to talk about research and opportunities in the geosciences with an actual geologist. Field trip stops include: 1) Emigrant Pass, 2) Zabriskie Point, 3) Mesquite Flat dune field, 4) Mosaic Canyon, 5) Golden Canyon, 6) Harmony Borax Works, 7) Ash Meadows Nature Preserve, 8) the valley at night and stargazing, 9) Badwater Basin, 10) Devil’s Golfcourse, and 11) Natural Bridge. Each stop had an activity or investigation designed to build students’ understanding of geologic processes, geologic history, and/or ecology.

Upon completion of the camp, students were surveyed about their understanding of core geoscience concepts and their interest in continuing to study the geosciences in college. These results add to the evidence that field experiences increase students’ interest in studying the geosciences and in pursuing geoscience majors and careers.