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Teaching Petrology in the 21st Century
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Cutting Edge > Petrology > Teaching Activities > The Mountain View area of the Stillwater Complex as a field teaching model

The Mountain View area of the Stillwater Complex as a field teaching model

I. S. McCallum
,
University of Washington, Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.


This page first made public: Jul 29, 2008

Summary

Two sections in the Mountain View of the Stillwater Complex are readily accessible for field-based teaching of petrologic and geochemical principles: (a) a section through the Ultramafic series in the vicinity of the old Mouat Chrome Mine and (b) a section through the Banded series exposed on the mine road ¾ mile south of the junction with the West Fork USFS road. Both sections provide ideal field settings to demonstrate a number of relatively simple concepts that we commonly discuss in abstract terms in the classroom.

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Context

Audience

I will assume that most students in this group who make the trip to the Stillwater Complex are geology majors and do so after a year of traditional geology classes, i.e., they will have been exposed to mineralogy, petrology, structural geology and stratigraphy, and that they will have knowledge of the basic sciences equivalent to a full year of mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Prior to the field visit, and preferably in a classroom setting near the actual site, students should attend a short tutorial on the general geology of the complex. In this tutorial there should be an attempt made to emphasize why rocks of this type, in general, and the Stillwater Complex, in particular, have played such a large role in petrologic thought. On the assumption that most students need reminding of what minerals look like and how textures are described, a brief summary of the basic mineralogy of mafic cumulate rocks should be provided

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a field trip designed to demonstrate and tie together concepts we talk about in the classroom.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

The fundamental objective is to have the students realize that rocks are much more than collections of minerals and that the mineral assemblages and rock sequences conform to simple basic scientific principles. A major objective is to have students make semi-quantitative observations of the rocks with a view to understanding basic petrologic principles such as fractional crystallization, magma mixing, assimilation, compaction, and fluid migration. The exposed sequences examined by the students provide superb examples to which more advanced students can apply the principles of thermodynamics and phase equilibria to actual rocks. The Ultramafic sequence also allows the students to make an estimate of the total reserves of Cr ore associated with the main Cr seam in the complex.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This activity involves analysis of data, formulation of hypotheses, synthesis of ideas, and critical evaluation of competing models and hypotheses.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Two sections in the Mountain View of the Stillwater Complex are readily accessible for field-based teaching of petrologic and geochemical principles: (a) a section through the Ultramafic series in the vicinity of the old Mouat Chrome Mine and (b) a section through the Banded series exposed on the mine road ¾ mile south of the junction with the West Fork USFS road. Both sections provide ideal field settings to demonstrate a number of relatively simple concepts that we commonly discuss in abstract terms in the classroom. To this end, the Mountain View field site has many advantages: it is readily accessible to large numbers of students, the rocks are well exposed and unaltered, detailed maps are readily available, there is a very large petrologic and geochemical database, a number of seminal papers on this area have been published, the mineralogy is simple and the constituent minerals in all rock types are easily identified with a simple 10x hand lens. In addition, this area demonstrates the importance of the Stillwater Complex as a major economic resource.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students have met the goals of the activity if they are engaged in the activity and can come up with creative, but plausible, ideas for how the complex formed that are based on observations made at the field site.

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