GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 222-11
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-1:00 PM


LONSDORF, Tara, OSMUN, Mallory, RUSTIC, Gerald and CONNOLLY, Harold C., Geology, Rowan University, 201 Mullica Hill Rd., Glassboro, NJ 08028

Experiential learning is a key element in geoscience education and has been shown to increase diversity in the discipline. However, opportunities for hands-on geology are limited in southern New Jersey due to its flat, sandy landscape mostly devoid of outcrops. In 2020, Rowan University’s Glassboro, NJ campus commissioned internationally-recognized stonemason Thea Alvin to construct public artwork for its academic building, Discovery Hall. The resulting sculpture, “Time Sweeps,” features nine distinct lithologies in a curving stone wall and arch, with which visitors can tactilely engage. The majority of boulders featured are not from southern New Jersey, presenting a unique opportunity for the local community to visualize unfamiliar geology. The Earth processes displayed within “Time Sweeps” allowed our group to develop a three-pronged method for geoscience educational outreach. These include: printing 24-page field guides for distribution within Discovery Hall; launching a remote-accessible web-mapping app; and developing educational programming for 1st to 5th grade students. Field guides are written in plain language with space for notes on each rock type; adults may read the content to children without necessitating the presence of a trained instructor, while older students in the target age-range may benefit from the challenge of independent observations. Meanwhile, our elementary-age programming involves hands-on demonstrations of the rock cycle followed by guided inquiry on how each lithology is related to broader Earth processes. Students will be led to the sculpture site and encouraged to make observations about each rock, then to draw conclusions based on what they have learned in the classroom. To gauge engagement and educational outcomes, focus groups of local 1st-5th graders will provide feedback on improved understanding of concepts, increased interest in geoscience, and program enjoyment. Finally, our web app will be implemented as a further, more academic resource for a wider public audience. This app will serve as a living document, updated as academic understanding of the boulders evolves. This program will provide a resource for both in-person and virtual attendees to leave with a new understanding of geoscience and encouragement to continue seeking knowledge of the natural world.