Geoadventure to GeoCanada 2010
By Ann Jackson, Math and Science Program Leader, Specialist High Skills Major -Environment Lead St. Thomas Aquinas C.H.S Russell, Ontario
The call came mid February – a very excited school secretary called out to me across the atrium of the school, “I just received a message for you about attending a geology conference in Calgary. Can I carry your bags for you?” “I wish”, I responded, “But teachers really don’t get to go places, especially somewhere like Calgary!” So you can imagine my sheer delight to find out that the invitation was real. This was an opportunity to attend GeoCanada 2010 – a gathering of geologic thinkers, skills and experience.
In a previous life before my current career as a teacher, I received an Honours Co-op B.Sc. degree in Earth Science from the University of Waterloo. During this time, I was involved in geology and exploration geophysics from Newfoundland to Fort McMurray, and Red Lake to Baker Lake. After graduation, I continued with gravity surveying in Canada and United States, and then further afield in East Africa and New Zealand. The advent of children in my life put an end to the travelling and fieldwork that I so enjoyed, but my passion for earth sciences never diminished.
Teaching at the secondary level became my new career, and along with math, science and physics, I now teach the grade 12 university level Earth and Space Science course. I am also proud to say that I have had top students pursue post-secondary studies in Earth Science. So what is the key to having enough students to offer a course, even in a small rural school in Russell, Ontario? This is where having the opportunity for professional development such as GeoCanada 2010 is most critical.
The flight from Ottawa to Calgary was beautiful. Perfectly clear skies, the winter snow melted, but limited new vegetation allowed for impressive viewing of our spectacular Canadian geology. Saturday morning began with teachers gathered from across Canada to listen to Godfrey Nowlan present ideas of the importance of teaching Earth Science, and why it is a difficult topic to teach. In particular, he noted the incomprehensible magnitude of time and the complex interactions of earth processes. After this, we spent the remainder of the day with dynamic presenter, Stella Heenan. The theme of the day was “Putting the Earth into Science” – incorporating geosciences into chemistry, physics, biology, math, and environmental science. Stella introduced the group to a multitude of hands on activities that do not require expensive equipment. The Canadian Geological Foundation developed this material through the EdGeo Teacher Workshop Program.
Investigating Groundwater movement through different materials,
a hands-on activity presented by Edgeo workshop leader, Stella Heenan.
Having the chance to actually do the labs means that we are far more likely to attempt these in the classroom since we know what to expect, and how to go about it. Activities included topics such as the water table, carbon cycle, landslides, magnetism of the earth, and the chemistry of rocks and minerals. These activities not only provide real life examples for these subjects but also serve as a springboard into learning more about the planet inhabit. So instead of just teaching magnetism in physics – we extend this to discuss the paleomagnetism that is recorded in sea floor spreading. The topic of waves and vibration easily lends itself to the types of waves encountered in earthquakes. This type of global association to fundamentals of what they are learning gives students meaningful learning and purpose. This cross-curricular approach is what inspires students to study earth science in grade 12! At the end of that day, we were all given posters, maps and a complete set of ready to implement electronic resources to take home with us!
On Sunday, we travelled east to the badlands of Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The morning was a “CCSI” – Cretaceous Crime Scene Investigation where teachers had to solve the crime of how a particular dinosaur met its demise and who the guilty party may have been, based on the information found at a dig site and dinosaurs that lived in that time frame. The afternoon was a chance to explore and marvel at the exhibits of this renowned museum.
Monday morning was the opening of the four-day GeoCanada conference at the Stampede Corral Centre. Almost 2000 students visited the Earth Science for Society exhibition geared toward middle and secondary school students. This interactive presentation allowed various organizations and companies to share their passion for earth science directly with students and to explain what it is that they do every day. Again for the teachers attending the conference, we had the opportunity to collect a multitude of ideas and resources to bring back to the classroom.
Using a fine spray of flour to mimic combustibility of dust in a coal mine.
There were still so many things to see and do. The exhibit halls were fascinating to explore – an array of equipment, technologies, and methodologies that are used in the many facets of exploration and bringing a prospect to production. Having worked in the field previously, it was interesting to see the advancements that have occurred in all aspects of exploration. I was thrilled to see an environmental focus throughout the conference. I attended a variety of presentations –interpretation of fluvial channel depositions in the Athabasca Oil Sands, effectiveness of various methods of bioremediation, ground water usage and replenishing, clean up of past “northern exploration ventures”, carbon storage and long term radioactive waste storage. The highlight of the presentations I attended had to be that of keynote speaker Dr. Jonathan Price who gave a most informative talk of past changes and predictions of global mineral demand and production. Not only did I enjoy his lecture – he readily shared an electronic copy of his presentation for me to take back for use in my classroom!
Another fascinating exhibit was the poster presentations of “The Science Beneath the Art”. This is a collection of artwork where the stories of the art, artist, geology and geologist are all combined into a poster. This certainly represents a way to reach a variety of learners in the classroom!
Poster of “On Yukon Waters” by artist Carl Rungius and geologist George Dawson.
Attending GeoCanada 2010 allowed me to meet with other teachers across the country to share concerns, ideas and strategies for implementing geosciences across the curriculum. Foremost, it was an opportunity to become current with what is going on in the earth science field. I would like to thank the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario for the funding that enabled me to participate in this extremely worthwhile professional development adventure.