LANDSCAPES IN TRANSITION: LINKING PHYSICAL LANDSCAPES WITH CULTURAL HERITAGE TO ENGAGE UNDERGRADUATES WITH GEOLOGY
Students participating in the China course visit the Songshan UNESCO Global Geopark, located in Henan Province and near the southern banks of the Yellow River. Here, students observe and consider spectacular overturned folds that are described in English language trailside interpretive signage as an “inverted universe.” Significantly, the corresponding Chinese language description of this phenomenon—i.e., qian kun zhuandao—draws from the symbolism of the classic Book of Changes (Yijing), thereby affording students the opportunity to consider how the Chinese philosophical tradition overlaps with the form of geologic structures and impacts perceptions of the natural environment.
Students participating in the Japan course explore the intersection between geoscience and cultural practice in the Oga Peninsula; they seek to understand the role that geoheritage can play in promoting rural sustainability in the face of stark depopulation and aging problems. The area is home to the Oga Peninsula-Ogata Geopark, a Japanese National Geopark partly included in Oga Quasi-National Park. It is also home to the Namahage ritual in which young men reenact New Year’s Eve visits by ogre-like deities in cultural practices that are included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Students investigate geoheritage and the roles governmental departments, tourism associations, and community members play in balancing education, preservation, and economic development goals.
Landscapes in Transition has generated interest in the geosciences by students who were initially more attracted to the humanities. Likewise, students with initial interests in geology have pursued language study as a result of the program.