Evaluating Sands in an Introductory Earth Science Class Using a Remotely-Operated Scanning Electron Microscope

Wednesday 4:30pm-5:45pm Beren Auditorium
Poster Session Part of Wednesday Poster Session


Mary Beck, Valencia Community College
In fall, 2017 and spring, 2018 earth science students at Valencia College in Orlando, FL used a remotely-accessed scanning electron microscope (SEM) and energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS) housed at the Florida Center for Analytical Electron Microscopy (FCAEM) as part of a semester long class project. Students looked at 15 diverse sands and Ocean Drilling Project (ODP) sands representing a variety of tectonic, depositional, and climate settings. The sands project was integrated into different earth science topics throughout the semester. Students began with observations of campus sand samples. Working in teams of 4, they used reflective microscopes to describe and evaluate the 15 sands. Each team also did a deeper investigation of one of these sands. Students used the EDS to determine elemental composition (provenance) of sands grains and quartz sand micro-textures (SEM) to determine depositional and climate associations for their sand. They used quartz sand micro-textures (SEM) of ODP sand grains to determine climate-related, ice-rafting mechanisms for deposition of sands to the ocean floor. Finally, the class used the EDS and SEM to determine provenance and depositional environment of the campus sand they collected on the first day of class.

Assessment of learning and student attitudes was conducted in fall of 2017 and spring of 2018. Students completed pre- and post-assessments looking at the project's impact on student learning. The learning assessment included 6 questions (developed by using student responses to open-ended questions from 2016). Results for several of the questions demonstrated statistically significant shifts towards improved conceptual understanding. Students also completed attitude surveys at the end of the semester, showing a general shift from neutral to positive responses.