A Geologic Walk Down the Grand Staircase
Higher Order Thinking Skills:
Role of Activity in a Course:
Data, Tools and LogisticsRequired Tools:
Students are immersed in all disciplines of geology and numerous stops in route allow them to put their hands on the history of the earth. The geologic time scale is discussed while driving and hiking through strata representing earth history from the present back through 1.75 billion years into the Precambrian.
Prior to the trip, students attend three classroom sessions that accommodate various levels of proficiency in the geosciences. Several optional pre-trip hikes are offered. At least half of one class session is devoted to preparations for the rigors of hiking in the Grand Canyon. Instructor consent is required prior to enrollment and students are advised of the fitness level required for the trip. Past participants have ranged in age from 17 to 70.
The focus of the field trip is primarily the geology of the Colorado Plateau. Students are immersed in all disciplines of geology and numerous stops in route allow them to put their hands on the history of the earth. The geologic time scale is discussed while driving and hiking through strata representing earth history from the present back through 1.75 billion years into the Precambrian.
Instructors lecture, lead discussions and encourage questions. Students are required to keep a journal with field drawings as well as write a report compiling information as discussed and outlined during the trip.
The ultimate goal of this class, now in its eighth year, is for each student to experience their own "ah-ha!" moment when the big picture of geology makes sense for them. Days saturated in real world geology leads to sudden clarity of previously introduced concepts.
Each student is asked to summarize their experience and what has become known on our trips as the "Grand Canyon Effect." To date, all who have participated in this trip have described being changed and affected by the canyon. Many describe hiking to the canyon rim on the last day as a profoundly emotional experience. Completing the rim to rim hike has proven to be deeply satisfying to all in our groups who have undertaken the arduous task. As geologists and educators, it is extremely gratifying to witness this excitement that can only be found through the experience. In the words of one student, "Some people would argue that the journey has ended; the reality is that the adventure has just begun."