GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 244-9
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM


CLARY, Renee M., Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, 101D Hilburn Hall, Mississippi State, MS 39762, NAGEL, Athena, Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, 72 BS Hood Dr., Starkville, MS 39762 and SHOWS, Eric, Science Division, Jones College, 900 S Court Street, Ellisville, MS 39437

The NSF IUSE GEOPAths project, Geo-SPARCC, developed online physical and historical geology courses (lecture and laboratory) to reach all community college students in Mississippi. Prior to Geo-SPARCC, geology courses were only taught regularly at one of the 15 community colleges in the state. Online availability through the Mississippi Virtual Community College consortium ensures that now all students have access to geology courses statewide. Since students seldom encounter Earth science beyond the 8th grade, Geo-SPARCC developed the curricula in a constructivist, place-based approach that utilized the state’s geology as the foundation upon which new knowledge could be built. Every unit (N=24) contains an “In MISSISSIPPI!” video that introduces geology content through a local example, though some creativity was needed to connect some topics to the state (e.g., glaciers, Archean Eon). Students are required to search within their local environments for examples (e.g., chert gravel, fossils, mass wasting events, fluvial examples). Students locate, analyze, and document their landscape, often with selfies that are shared on the classroom discussion board. Field excursions also allow students to apply course content alongside their video instructors; with pandemic constraints, these were modified to self-directed geocaching projects. Through the 5 semesters the courses have been offered, feedback consistently demonstrates that students most enjoy the geodiversity within their state—from an extinct volcano underlying Jackson, MS, to Eocene whale fossils that demonstrate the state was underwater in its geologic past. Spring 2021 pre- and post- content surveys revealed significant learning gains, even within the pandemic. Therefore, Geo-SPARCC affirms positive benefits of place-based education within online classrooms.