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I was on a trail run last week up to Sacagawea Peak, a popular hiking destination in the northern Bridger Range. I stopped to admire a herd of mountain goats when I encountered a young family on the trail. The boy, perhaps age 9, was just bubbling with excitement. His pockets were bulging and his hands were full of prized rock samples. He had found a treasure trove of fossils. I introduced myself as a geologist and asked if I could see his samples. We sorted through his treasures, and I helped identify brachiopods, rugose corals, a few fragments of some colonial "brain" corals, and some crinoid fragments (no calyxes today, but they can be found). (And yes, even though I'm a metamorphic petrologist I can still fully appreciate the diversity and beauty of these fossil assemblages). The crest of the Bridger Range is capped by the Mississippian Madison Limestone, and many horizons are extremely rich in these fossil beds. I pointed out that on their next visit if they go just over the pass they will find a layer of columnar structures that are known as "bioherms" and these were deposited by layering of algal mats formed along the margin of a shallow, warm sea. I also directed their attention to the cliffs above us that have been tilted to a near-vertical orientation and folded in an intricate pattern. They thanked me for this information and we went on our way.
Reflecting farther up the trail, the most interesting part of this chance encounter was my conversation with the parents. More
The last decade has been a whirlwind of opportunities to work on behalf of Earth science education on many fronts: course and curriculum improvement, pedagogy, integrating research and education, use of information technologies and digital resources to support instruction, faculty professional development, discipline-specific research on learning in the Earth sciences....More
I was ready for a change in my academic life. And, I was on a mission. How could anything as important as living responsibly on Earth (through understanding Earth history, its components and processes) be so grossly underrepresented in STEM education and in society? I began to seek out kindred spirits with similar interests and concerns (Dex Perkins, John Brady), made presentations at national professional society meetings, organized theme sessions, and most importantly, began to become involved with NSF conferences and advisory boards. I recognized that the most direct route towards empowering Earth science education was through the various grant programs at NSF.Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE). This was the first time that an Earth scientist served in this position More
Midway through my academic career (post-tenure) I had a latent suspicion that things weren't right. I was covering the traditional content in a variety of introductory, mineralogy, and petrology courses, but it was clear that the students weren't "getting it", they were generally uninspired (by the science that I was truly excited about) and often were resistant to my class activities and were sometimes openly hostile ("this is not relevant, I'll never use this stuff"), and I was generally dissatisfied with my own teaching performance and the overall environment in my classes. Then I had a remarkable convergence of three disparate events that fundamentally changed my outlook and practice in education: More