Heirloom Geology: How to Create an Inclusive Classroom by Centering Place-based Geology on Students' Cultural Heritage and Personal Histories
An overview of the assignment will be given with examples of student work. Examples of how to incorporate students' responses into related geology topics/concepts throughout the course will be shown. Tips on how to modify this assignment using different topics will also be presented.
This activity uses students' cultural heritage and personal experience as a form of place-based geology. As an introduction to minerals, students are asked to provide a photo and write about a culturally or personally significant mineral. This assignment invites students to connect to their cultural heritage while also connecting them personally to the material covered in class. This is also a way for professors to get to know their students better, especially as some students choose a mineral that has sentimental value or that is a family heirloom. This assignment can easily be changed and used with other geology content such as rocks, volcanoes, and streams. Incorporating students' cultural heritage and personal experiences in an assignment is a simple, yet highly effective way to acknowledge and welcome diversity in a geology class.
This activity is used in undergraduate introductory geology courses. Typical students in these courses have little or no prior knowledge of geology. Students in these classes have diverse backgrounds and many are part of groups that are underrepresented in the geosciences.
Why It Works
Students learn to connect geology to objects and places that are meaningful to them. First, they enjoy the opportunity to think about and share geology in the context of their cultural heritage. Second, they are able to share this knowledge with their professor and fellow students. Such a personal connection makes every student feel seen and included.
Professors create a welcoming, inclusive class environment by elevating cultural diversity and by incorporating student responses in other topics throughout the semester. They learn about the cultural contexts of specific minerals and get to know their students on a more personal level.
This type of place-based geology works well in online environments and is pandemic friendly because it relies on a sense of place rather than being at a physical location.