GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 97-11
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


NAGY, Elizabeth A., Division of Natural Sciences; Geosciences Department, Pasadena City College, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

Asking students to “get their hands dirty” while learning can help solidify concepts, deepen understanding, and illustrate how course topics relate to societal interests and concerns. Four activities used in introductory, non-major physical geology and earth science courses at a two-year college are presented. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are designed, built, and tested during a 3-hour class by students with no prior experience regarding design strategies. Teams of 3-4 students build the vehicles using PVC materials and three motors that must propel the ROV underwater using three toggle switches. Class discussion includes ROVs used in ocean research, oil and gas drilling support, telecommunications, and underwater archaeology, to name a few. The activity culminates with team competitions to rescue “fake crabs” from the campus swimming pool. A second activity is the exploration of hydrogen bonds by comparing drops of water and isopropyl alcohol on waxed paper. The activity uses capillary tubes and small cups to introduce the concepts surface tension, cohesion, and adhesion. The activity introduces the unique properties of water resulting from hydrogen bonds and why this is crucial to all life on Earth. In another lesson students “mine” blueberries or chocolate chips out of large muffins in an activity linked to mining practices, covering concepts such as ore, waste rock, surface and underground mining, and reclamation. This is an adapted InTeGrate module “Humans’ Dependence on Earth’s Mineral Resources”. Lastly, students learn the concepts of stress and strain using silly putty. They are instructed how to manipulate the putty to illustrate compression, tension, and shear stresses as they draw diagrams in their notes. These are tied to fault and plate boundary types. Next, they make models of elastic, plastic (ductile), and brittle strain and connections are made to related earth behaviors. In addition to providing deeper understanding, hands-on activities can trigger students’ memories about concepts by recalling the class activity, such as “Remember when we used the silly putty to represent elastic deformation? The elastic rebound theory is similar in that the deformation is temporary, and land returns to its original shape once the applied stress is removed following fault slip.”