Building a field course to attract diverse minds to the geosciences

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm SERC Building - Atrium | Poster #5
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session


Kelsey Barker, Rowan University
Lily Pfeifer, Rowan University
Aaron Barth, Rowan University
Understanding earth's processes is broadly beneficial to an undergraduate curriculum, especially as society shifts toward a sustainable and environmentally focused future. The limited access to effective earth science curriculum in pre-college public school curriculum in the United States has become a barrier to diversity in the geoscience community, as specific interests often drive enthusiasm for a career in the geosciences. In developing pedagogy for the first year of an Adirondack Mountain Field Course (2024), we aim to test how active and place-based learning styles may inspire students from diverse backgrounds and with different levels of former experience to understand and find enthusiasm in the geosciences. The Adirondack Field Course is a five-day field experience in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, led by Rowan University's Cosmogenic Nuclide Lab (Department of Geology) in partnership with Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ), a two-year college with campuses in counties adjacent to Rowan University's main campus (South Jersey). Seven RCSJ students from diverse backgrounds (non-Geology majors) enrolled in the field course. This field experience is preceded by five meetings to discuss necessary geology and paleoclimate concepts designed to familiarize participants with the overarching goals and hypotheses driving our Adirondack-based paleoclimate research. In this program, we focus on providing accessible opportunities to examine glacial geology in person, with limited physical requirements and no financial responsibility. By removing some of these obstacles that make geoscience education inaccessible for many students, this program is an opportunity to engage a diverse population of students to see their potential in an Earth Science career path. We gained insight into individual students' existing knowledge and past experiences in Geology related disciplines from a brief experience questionnaire given on the first day of the course, and adapted curriculum to teach geoscience topics in the context of their responses. We integrate active learning into pre-field lectures by using physical activities and hands-on demonstrations. Students participated in voluntary and anonymous summative assessments given at the beginning and end of the course. We will discuss plans to leverage the results of assessment data from the first year of our program (i.e. quantitative data on concept retention, as well as qualitative data from the experience questionnaire) to adapt our pedagogy for subsequent years of the Adirondack Field Course.