Using Field and Laboratory Studies of Pyroclastic Deposits to Engage Students in the Scientific Process and Promote Development of Professional Skills
The dynamic volcanic landscape of the Pacific Northwest provides an ideal framework for teaching undergraduate students about fundamental volcanology concepts, as well as core geoscience and professional skills. This poster describes a teaching activity, consisting of a series of linked exercises that employ field observations, data collection, and granulometric analyses to interpret pyroclastic deposits in central Oregon. Given the modular nature of this activity, different exercises can be conducted depending on the resources available to individual instructors.
For the field component, students work in teams to construct a stratigraphic column, describe the characteristics of their interval, obtain samples, and collect pumice and lithic size data. In the laboratory, student groups sieve their sample and determine weights for each size fraction. As a follow-up exercise, students graph the grain-size data for all of the class samples, determine select phi values, calculate parameters using published formulas to characterize sorting, and make interpretations about the pyroclastic deposits. The culminating exercise is a writing assignment in which students, from the perspective of a USGS volcanologist, prepare a report for the Bend City Council to address regional volcanic hazards.
This activity engages students in the scientific process, through observation, data analysis, and interpretation. Students gain experience communicating results in written form to a diverse audience. Team work and collaboration are built into the activity through group field and laboratory work. Student skill development can be assessed using a set of post-activity questions, which require students to graph and analyze data from unknown pyroclastic deposits and interpret their origin. Student performance on the culminating paper can also be assessed in the context of program outcomes. This activity can be used for program assessment, as it dovetails with geoscience education initiatives, emphasizing broader scale objectives of preparing future geoscientists to solve challenging problems in the 21st century.