Cutting Edge > Courses > Petrology > Rock Suites Working Group

Rock Suites Working Group

What do we want to accomplish?*

One of the outcomes from the 2003 Teaching Petrology workshop was a call for the development of a series of data-rich rocks suites that could be used to help students learn fundamental petrologic processes and concepts such as partial melting, magmatic differentiation, and phase equilibria. These suites would include detailed field, structural, geochemical, and geochronologic data that could be used in short lecture demonstrations, laboratory exercises, multi-week activities or semester-long projects. The motivation behind the development of these suites is the growing understanding in the education community that hands-on, problem-based learning activities that allow students to build their own knowledge are more effective than most traditional lecture formats. In discovery-based environments students learn to pose questions, work with data, manage ambiguity, and synthesize diverse observations. Many existing rocks suites used in petrology courses consist of rocks that were not necessarily selected to facilitate learning of important petrologic processes, or to develop higher order skills in a discovery-based setting.

Our proposal is to develop a collection of genetically related rocks that can be used to discover fundamental petrologic concepts through guided data collection, interpretation, and synthesis by students and faculty. The use of suites in this manner helps develop a "community of learners" atmosphere in a course, where the outcome is perhaps not well defined and could change from year to year depending on the interests of the students and faculty involved. In addition, we hope these suites will be developed and used by several institutions, thus modeling the process of modern research by promoting sharing of equipment, data, ideas, and expertise perhaps through the use of a dedicated web site for each suite.

* from Wirth, K., Davidson, C., and Creasy, J., Refining a Proposal to Build Data-Rich Rock Suites for Learning Petrology: Eos. Trans. AGU, 84(46), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract ED41C-1178, 2003.

Field Workshops

We propose to organize thematic field workshops focused on rock suites identified by the petrologic community (e.g., a Barrovian metamorphic suite). In order to obtain such a suite, we would organize a field conference with 15-20 participants who would meet for 3-4 days to collect samples, to organize existing, supporting materials (e.g. maps, literature), and to develop exercises that could be used with the suite.

There are two working (not mutually exclusive) models on the types of suites we could pursue. The first is to choose a suite that already has a wealth of data, references, maps (hence, already "data-rich"), and the second is to choose a less well-known suite that students and faculty work on together to generate data. This model not only provides students with a greater sense of ownership in the project, but also provides opportunities for students to experience and become familiar with sample preparation, instrumentation, and analytical methods. It also allows us to model how research is done in our courses by actually doing research. In addition, an advantage of our proposal is that different institutions throughout the country can share data and ideas developed from a common set of samples–modeling the collaborative nature of modern science. Indeed, some of this work could eventually lead to publication. To help promote these types of interactions, we would construct and maintain a website for the rock suites for faculty and students to post data and share ideas.

Potential Rock Suites

A number of potential rock suites we could pursue were presented at the "Teaching Petrology in the 21st Century" theme session during the 2003 Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco (ED41C and ED51A). In addition, Table 1 (Acrobat (PDF) 90kB Dec8 03) lists potential rocks suites generated at the 2003 workshop in Bozeman.

Working Group Members:

David G. Bailey, Hamilton College,
Ray Beiersdorfer, Youngstown State University,
Eric H Christiansen, Brigham Young University,
Christopher D. Condit, Univ. Massachusetts,
Mark R. Colberg, Southern Utah University,
John Creasy*, Bates College,
Linda Lee Davis, Northern Illinois University,
Larry Eugene Davis, College of St. Benedict,
Cameron Davidson*, Carleton College,
Steven R. Dunn, Mount Holyoke College,
G. Nelson Eby, University of Massachusetts Lowell,
Todd Feeley, Montana State University,
Lydia K. Fox, University of the Pacific,
John Goodge, University of Minnesota, Duluth,
Timothy W. Grover, Castleton State College,
Jodie Lynn Hayob, Mary Washington College,
Bereket Haileab, Carleton College,
Darrell Henry, Lousiana State University, dhenry@geol.lsu edu
Mary Keskinen, University of Alaska Fairbanks,
Mr. Jade Star Lackey, University of Wisconsin-Madison,
Kurt Samuel Panter, Bowling Green State University,
Dexter Perkins, Univ. of North Dakota,
William Peck, Colgate University,
Joseph F. Reese, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania,
Bernhardt Saini-Eidukat, North Dakota State University,
Ronald C. Schott, Lake Superior State University,
John R. Webster, Minot State University,
James Welsh, Gustavus Adolphus College,
Richard F. Wendlandt, Colorado School of Mines,
Jennifer M. Wenner, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh,
Peter M. Whelan, University of Minnesota, Morris,
Donna L. Whitney, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities,
Karl Wirth*, Macalester College,

* Working Group Leaders