Thomas Nelson Community College
Help a geochronologist part of Geoscience in Two-year Colleges:Activities
This is an exercise in calculating absolute ages of zircon crystals based on raw data collected by a SHRIMP (Sensitive High-resolution Ion Micro-probe). The assignment has been used as a hands-on extension of studying methods of absolute dating in lecture and laboratory sections of Historical Geology. Students are presented with a corrupt data sheet that has lost all age calculations but retains the observed ratios of several parent-daughter isotopes. The students use the raw isotopic ratios in Excel to re-calculate ages for several zircon analyses from one of four rock samples. Accompanying questions to this activity require students to manipulate data into more accurate and meaningful formats; create and interpret graphs of calculated ages for each sample; and speculate on sources of error, protolith, and overall meaningfulness of data.
Is Workforce Training The Critical Link To Get Students Engaged? part of Geoscience in Two-year Colleges:Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education in Two-Year Colleges:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Teaching geology at a moderately-sized community college in southeast Virginia has taught me that most students coming into my classes 1) are there because they need to satisfy their lab-science/general education requirements, 2) perceive geology to be either "easier" or "more interesting" than physics, chemistry, or biology, and 3) really have no clue what geology is about. As the ever-optimistic instructor, I've forged ahead with my classes expecting that enthusiasm, dynamic and interactive lectures and labs, and attempting to use details to construct "the big-picture" would lead to the new generation of geoscientists. Increasingly, I've learned that my students want to see connections to "the real world" and that they have little to no concept of what geoscientists "do". As I've started incorporating more real-world examples into my classes, I have heard more and more to the effect of "yeah it's interesting, but what am I going to do with geology?". Apparently a meaningful barrier still exists for my students studying the geosciences in more detail, and it seems that stronger connections to the workforce could help elucidate what geologists actually "do", providing my students with more relevant examples of geology and that critical link to what they could do after leaving my class.