Improving undergraduate writing by communicating local geological knowledge

Tuesday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


Benjamin Linzmeier, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Stephen R. Meyers, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Local geological knowledge is usually not highlighted in general geology textbooks that are used in high schools, and thus they do not incorporate hands-on learning opportunities that can engage and inspire new geologists. University faculty with expertise in local geology can disseminate knowledge, but must balance outreach with the demands of teaching and research. We have developed a strategy to leverage teaching time at the university to create lasting and updatable outreach materials, while building the written science communication skills of undergraduate geoscientists.

Undergraduate students and faculty work together to create written summary documents highlighting the scientific importance of local geology geared toward communicating these results to high school science teachers and students. This approach was chosen because undergraduate students are rapidly learning complex jargon and how to interpret it, they may have an inherent appreciation for what could spark non-expert interest, and written summary communication helps foster critical thinking for the undergraduate students.

The pilot implementation of this project was run in the fall of 2013 in a Sedimentology and Stratigraphy class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Students worked in groups to produce a guidebooks with the following parts; a general overview of the geological history of Wisconsin, a summary of an important research problem in sedimentary geology addressed by rocks in the southwest corner of the state, an introductory guide to looking at outcrops in the area, and a summary of a societally relevant problem related to local geology. Future development of this outreach-as-learning approach can help to disseminate research results from the geoscience literature to local communities and change student perceptions of their roles as scientists