GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 178-11
Presentation Time: 10:55 AM


ECHOHAWK, Barbara, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Denver, CO 80217-3362

Energy and Mineral Resources is a junior-senior lecture/lab/field geology course that brings together students with majors or minors in Applied Geology, Geography, Sustainability Studies, and Environmental Sciences. This assortment of academic interests inevitably mixes students with markedly different points of view on the development and use of energy and mineral resources – some intend to go straight into energy/mineral jobs when they graduate, others want to clean up after them, still others would like to shut down the whole operation altogether – all of which presents a perfect opportunity not only to teach the geology of energy/mineral resources but also to help students learn to listen and communicate effectively on hot-button issues that will be vitally important in their lifetimes. In order to jump-start communication, the course begins by ignoring the controversies and using non-geological tools such as multiple intelligence surveys to get the students talking, laughing, and starting to team-build. By the second week, students research and bring in the names of controversial energy/mineral projects that are currently proposed somewhere in the world – a new mine, a proposed spring-water bottling facility, new deep-ocean manganese nodule mining, a new LNG facility, and so on. The class mulls over the list and chooses five or six ideas; each student then self-selects onto one of these as part of a team. At the end of the semester, each team represents “all” of their project’s stakeholders’ viewpoints and the project’s pros and cons in an active creative format (no PowerPoints!) to the class. In working together to present all “sides” of their controversial issue, most students begin to successfully hear the various arguments, regardless of their own opinion. Students follow up with a written paper expressing their own opinion on their project and the scientific basis of their opinion, which builds upon the course content on how energy/mineral resources develop geologically and how they are located, characterized, and developed for human use. An additional crucial aspect of the course is field exposure to real-world resource sites such as open pit/underground mines, oil/gas wellsites, a nuclear reactor, and solar/wind farms, which frequently prove to be surprising and eye-opening experiences.