Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches

Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches

Steven J. Whitmeyer
David W. Mogk
Eric J. Pyle


Georgia Southern University faculty members R. Kelly Vance, Charles H. Trupe, and Frederick J. Rich co-authored “Integrating Ground-Penetrating Radar and Traditional Stratigraphic Study in an Undergraduate Field Methods Course” and “Evolution of Geology Field Education for K-12 teachers from field education for Geology Majors at Georgia Southern University: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches” in the publication Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches.

Chapter Summary: Georgia Southern University maintains a traditional geology curriculum for both bachelor of science (B.S.) and bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree candidates. Field experiences figure prominently in our curricula, and students have been taught to use traditional means of gathering and recording field data (e.g., Brunton compasses and notebooks with sketches). We have recently introduced high-resolution geophysical investigations that are focused particularly on ground-penetrating radar. A nearby field location, known as Middleground, offers an excellent road cut with sufficient exposure, lithological heterogeneity, and relief to conduct both geological and geophysical investigations. We have shown students how one technique contrasts with the other, and how they can be used to support each other. Student reactions to the Middleground ground-penetrating radar exercise have been positive and enthusiastic, and have led us to formulate new and diverse applications of ground-penetrating radar to assist students in developing their three-dimensional visualization skills and a greater understanding of geophysical techniques in field investigations.

Book Summary: Field-based learning has been embraced at Georgia Southern University as an emphasis first applied to geology majors courses 40 yr ago and then to teacher education programs for the past 30 yr. Building upon a strong foundation of field education for geology majors in geology courses, we transferred the concepts to in-service education majors. From limited summer teacher workshops coupling lectures to field-site visits, a comprehensive field-intensive program evolved to enhance the capability and number of middle school science teachers. Courses integrating lecture, laboratory, and field-based learning have been offered for 28 yr, providing teachers with education in physical geology, fundamentals of historical geology, and collections of minerals, rocks, ores, and fossils. These courses are tied to regional geology and supplemented with maps, posters, field guides, and textbooks. The St. Catherines Island Sea Turtle program was developed concurrently, and 2008 marks 18 yr of integrating “conservation, research, and education” into a program that conserves loggerhead sea turtles and incorporates modeling and practice of field science and pedagogy through teacher-centered activities. Fourteen teacher-interns per summer investigate loggerhead ecology, the human history, and geologic evolution of St. Catherines Island, and create natural history, collections for their classrooms. New skills, knowledge, and collections enhance teaching units on sea turtles and other endangered species that are developed in a spring follow-up course. Field and instructional technologies are integrated for regular use, including global positioning system (GPS), thermal data loggers, temperature and moisture probes, ground radar, photography, web and pod casts, plus note taking and field sketching. Geology and education professors, experienced teacher mentors, and local experts collaborate to produce one of the most successful teacher education programs in Georgia with respect to continuity of funding and positive teacher and program review feedback.