AREC: model for enhancing Science literacy using field geology

submitted by

Megan H. Jones Geology, North Hennepin Community College
Author Profile

This course enhances science literacy by emphasizing the repeated practice of making observations, posing questions & developing hypotheses around a narrowly focused aspect of Minnesota Geology. Students construct new knowledge using their own observations and they test their hypotheses by predicting "what is around the corner," geologically speaking.

Learning Goals

1. Application of scientific method via collection of detailed field observations and hypotheses testing.
2. Recognize significance, origination, and use of classification: rocks, minerals, fossils.
3. General understanding and application of basic stratigraphic principles and sedimentary processes and environments in unraveling field relations.
4. Topographic map use and recognition of landforms and surficial processes related to Earth Systems interactions.
5. General understanding of plate tectonics, its role in Earth Systems interactions and the geologic processes and features associated with it.

Geologic Skills:
1. Making and understanding the significance of detailed observations and explicitly communicating them both by written field notes and through discussion.
2. Recognizing patterns in various types of geologic data (e.g. maps, cross-sections, outcrops).
3. Posing geologic questions/hypotheses and drawing conclusions from both original field and prepared geologic data sets.

Higher Order Thinking Skills:
Application: repeated practice using basic geologic principles and rock identification skills
Analysis: pattern recognition and correlation to deduce geologic relationships in the field
Synthesis: piecing together classroom, lab and field observations to construct the geologic history of the course emphasis

Other Skills:


Instructional Level:
HIgh School, undergraduate majors and non-majors, graduate students, informal and general public.

Skills Needed:
Basic reading, writing and math skills. No skills specific to geology or earth science necessary.

Role of Activity in a Course:
Field experience as a central integrating theme. There are 4-6 classroom/lab meetings, once a week, where students are introduced to the inquiry method and practice using it with various types of geologic data/information. Culmination of the course is a mandatory 3-day field excursion to areas of Minnesota that typify the geologic emphasis of the course.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:
No special tools necessary. Use of standard geologic field equipment: rock hammers, goggles, mineral identification tools, tape measure, field note book, colored pencils.

Logistical Challenges:
For all except repeat students (students may take each course once for credit), this course is their first exposure to geology in the field and in some cases, to geology in general. As a result, the diversity of learning levels is quite broad and some hand holding is often necessary to support those students to whom the whole camping and field learning experience is new.


Evaluation Goals:
1. Students should have the ability to piece together geologic events based on detailed notes, observations and critical thinking.
2. Students should understand how to apply the scientific method and be able to recognize the distinction between their observations and their interpretations.
3. Students should be able to recognize Science from other ways of knowing.

Evaluation Techniques:
1. Evaluation of student performance is obtained by review of a student's field notes both in the field and upon completion.
2. Assessing a student's ability to connect observations to interpretations by means of: a) a group project; b) a written exercise; and/or 3) an exam.


The course context is narrowly defined, using only one or two aspects of Minnesota's geology (e.g. volcanic, plutonic, and metamorphic; glacial; caves, karst and ancient seaways; fluvial). Students are asked to practice making observations in order to develop the ability to 'see" at different scales. They are given a geologic or topographic map, a diagram, cross-section, graph or sent out a specific area and asked to describe what they see using any terms that seem to apply. Students learn terminology in context and go from the big picture to fine details. In constructing their own knowledge, students begin to grasp a deeper understanding of how science works and learning by discovery can generate an interest in something that was once taken for granted or not even ever seen. Course Goals: 1) a deeper understanding of what science is and how it works; 2) reveal and address students' pre- and misconceptions about the Earth; 3) re-ignite the students' curiosity and remind them of the excitement of learning by discovery; and 4) a greater appreciation of the region where they live and work.
Course Ojectives: