North-Central - 52nd Annual Meeting

Paper No. 43-2
Presentation Time: 1:50 PM


MAHER Jr., Harmon, Department of Geography/Geology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE 68182

Service learning may be more challenging for the geosciences than some other disciplines, but opportunities exist and are realized. We are in our fourth service learning project serving both Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum and 7th graders in a local parochial school. Part of the museum’s mission is to engage visitors and especially K-12 students in STEAM, the intersection of STEM disciplines and “Art”. The 7th graders are also engaged in service learning as their goal is to develop an activity (often an app that can be accessed through tablets or smart phones) for the museum that engages visitors and teaches them about geology through the art. The philosophy is that the creative and imaginative 7th graders will create an activity that speaks to an audience of similar age and mind. The role of University of Nebraska at Omaha undergraduate students and myself (as faculty) is three fold: a) to teach the 7th graders basic geology in support of their endeavor; b) to help the 7th graders see possibilities of exploring geology in the art of the museum and feed them related information as grist for their mills; and c) to answer questions about the geology that arise on the way and help the 7th graders “get it right”. In the first year, the focus was on a collection of Thomas Moran chromolithographs from the 1871 Hayden Yellowstone expedition. The second year focused on the exquisite building stone in the museum that comes from Italy, Greece, Brazil, and quite a few different states in the U.S.. The third year focused on the museum’s western collection, and this year the focus is on the newly redone European Hall. A pleasant surprise has been the richness of possibilities for seeing and discussing geology that is explicit and/or implicit in the art. Beyond serving, multiple motivations drive participation. Foremost is recruiting of young minds to geology. UNO undergraduate participants also benefit in several ways. They gain experience in the increasingly important skill of conveying science to the general populace. In engaging with the 7th graders they also solidify their understanding and geologic expertise. Finally, they see a realm where geologic science is of interest, expanded beyond the more narrow scope of employment. In that art museums exist in many other medium sized cities, potential for similar service learning projects may exist.