Student Field Guide

Katherine Boggs, Mount Royal University

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This activity was inspired by the "Pet Rock" project of Daryl Henry. I developed this activity to be a capstone experience for our students. During the fall 4th year field trip, students are responsible for leading their field stop/project, and for collecting samples and measurements while at their stop. Students then analyze their samples/measurements as their term projects in the fall course. In the winter course the class compiles these field trip projects into their classes' field guide. Key Words: Field guide, tectonics, capstone

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This activity is intended to be a fourth year capstone experience for our BSc Geology Major students. Individual students create their own field trip projects as a term project in the fall Geological History of Western Canada. As a class the Field Guide is compiled during the winter Geoscience Research course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Because this activity is intended to be a capstone experience, the students will have completed:
1. Introductory Field School and the field portion of Advanced Field School,
2. Structural Geology, Geochemistry and the Petrology courses (in our case, a full term of Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic Petrology as separate courses),
3. Multiple written and aural term projects

How the activity is situated in the course

Fall term; i) preparation for field trip (lit review, write up of hypothesis and methodology), ii) field trip (lead stop/project, collect data), iii) exercises throughout term where individual projects illustrate tectonic and stratigraphic settings and where the "real world" data is analyzed, iv) aural and written presentations of individual projects
Winter term: i) students responsible for editing and analyzing a different project in terms of research components, ii) group compiles overall field guide


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The class is divided into small groups with projects from all regions covered by the field trip (which includes the interior of the Canadian Cordillera). Therefore, within each group, goals for this activity include:
-deformation mechanisms
-kinematic analysis
-accurate description of samples (outcrop, hand samples and thin sections)
-tectonic setting of the Canadian Cordillera and Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (including tectonic boundaries)

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

As a capstone experience, this activity is intended to cover:
-formulation of hypothesis
-creation of suitable methodology
-gathering & analysis of data
-synthesis of ideas
-critical evaluation of competing models

Other skills goals for this activity

Skills goals for this activity include:
-literature review
-group work (peer review and group analysis of data)
-oral presentation (introduction to field stop/project during field trip and powerpoint presentation near end of term
-writen report
-developing editing skills
-compiling reports into publication software

Description and Teaching Materials

I've included the field trip projects that students picked out of a hat with suggested questions to explore ("field trip projects" file). Also included are the marking scheme for the powerpoint presentations ("field guide powerpoint marking scheme") and written projects ("field guide written project marking scheme").

Field guide projects (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 30kB Jul12 12)
Field Guide Powerpoint Marking Scheme (Microsoft Word 36kB Jul12 12)
Field Guide Written Project Marking Scheme (Microsoft Word 56kB Jul12 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

I first used this activity during 2011/2012 with our first cohort of 4th year students, and experienced an incredible learning curve myself. The first difficulty that students experienced was dealing with "real world" situations. Some wanted well defined boundaries that I could not give them due to the varied nature of the different projects. The next time, I will give all the students more structure by having them complete first drafts of their literature reviews, hypothesis and methodology before going on the field trip. The second difficulty that we experienced was that some students did not want to have other students edit their work (in Canada this is in part covered by provincial legislature known as FOIP - freedom of information policy). Next time, I will have the student do calibrated peer reviews of each other's work during the fall term and incorporate this approach as a professional "way of thinking" to avoid the FOIP issue. The third difficulty was that some students did not want to have their work distributed outside of their classmates (i.e. copyright issues). I am currently working with our FOIP/copyright people in order to include a clause in the course outlines to prevent issues with FOIP/copyright for the future. Finally the fourth issue involved finding publishing software that was capable of handling these exceptionally large documents. So far Adobe InDesign appears to be the best option, which is an industry standard. Currently some communication students are developing a template for future use (which we are willing to share with anyone who might be interested). Adobe InDesign does involve a fairly steep learning curve in order to develop these templates.


I attached the marking schemes for the powerpoint presentations and written projects. Because of the FOIP and copyright issues, I was unable to mark the editting process during the winter term as I had intended to do. Ultimately this activity was designed to transition our students into the workforce and the true assessment of this activity will be our student success in the workforce.

References and Resources