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Rock Sample Observations

This material was originally created for On the Cutting Edge: Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
Sarah Tindall, Kutztown University
Course: Physical Geology
25 students
The most effective way to develop geoscience skills in your students is to make opportunities for them to practice those skills.

The Activity

I pass around a rock sample (often a migmatite). Each student has to stand, introduce him/herself, and make one observation. We keep a list of observations on the board. When the rock reaches the end of the class, I have them pass it back the other way so that each student gets to make an additional observation. The penalty if a student can't make a new observation is that he/she had to recite as many names of fellow students as possible. When the rock returns to me, I make a few additional observations and recite all of the students' names.

The purposes of this activity are

  1. to practice making observations
  2. to show the value of combining forces (25 brains are better than one)
  3. to point out the difference between observation and interpretation (interpretations always come up), and
  4. to start to get to know each other ("break the ice").