Growing the geoscience community through experiential learning activities with non-geoscience majors
Increasing the number of students intending to pursue a geoscience-related career path is critical to building a strong geoscience workforce. By providing opportunities for both Geology majors and non-majors to engage in career-relevant geoscience activities, we hope to increase the awareness and engagement of students in the geosciences.
A three-tier approach was created that leverages the existing undergraduate research component of our BS Geology degree to gradually transform non-majors into geoscientists. The first tier of our approach will leverage extra credit activities for our introductory geoscience courses to encourage inquiry-based thinking, focusing on geocaching, technology-driven engagement activities, and other accessible learning experiences as a tool to engage these non-major students. Building on this effort, students recruited to the second tier of engagement will take part in non-major oriented project-based learning activities that utilize a 'citizen science' approach to data collection, geoscience problem solving with GIS, or geoscience communication and outreach. Students transitioned into the third tier of our approach will take part in formal undergraduate research projects in geoscience, which form a cornerstone of our BS Geology curriculum.
The tiers will subsequently be linked together by our geology majors helping to mentor the lower tier students, and by second-tier students creating video content both highlighting research activities of the majors (third tier) and communicating the importance and relevance of geoscience to the first tier students (and, additionally, the general public). By investing in our current research program, we will not only strengthen research experiences for our current Geology majors, but we will also provide more diverse, engaging, and interesting projects to attract non-majors. Building on our existing BS program will also allow us to leverage our majors as ambassadors to non-majors and collaborators with geoscience professionals, thereby strengthening the overall geoscience community in South Carolina.