GROWING GEOSCIENTISTS IN THE DESERT: A GEOLOGY FIELD CAMP FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
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.