Teach the Earth > Teaching Methods > Field Labs > Why use field labs?

Why use field labs?

More Images of geoscience students and instructors in the field
Here are some of the many reasons to develop and teach field labs in geoscience:
  • Field problems are often more complex and realistic than what can be easily represented in a lab.
  • Although the solutions to many geoscience problems may involve lab analysis and computer modeling, the fundamental questions are often posed in the field.
  • Field problems break down artificial boundaries within geology. A single outcrop, for example, raises questions relating to stratigraphy, sedimentology weathering, structure, hydrology, and other specialty areas within the field.
  • Students working on a field lab together will commonly notice that each of them observes different things. This is an easy way to demonstrate that a combination of many observations is needed to represent the natural situation accurately.
  • Collecting their own data gives students a better sense of the uncertainty and error involved in scientific investigations that they read about in journal articles.
  • Simply being outside helps many students work together more easily.
  • Field labs give students the opportunity to learn about the local geography of the local campus area - or in some cases, to view the familiar features of campus in a new way through geoscience study.
  • Skills that can be developed in the field:
    • Observation
    • Description, including measuring, writing and sketching
    • Starting and maintaining a field notebook
    • Working in groups