European Geologist Journal 50

Interactive methods of studying geology with Z-generation children

 

by Hanna Liventseva1, Maryna Krochak2

1 Chairman of the Board of PO UAG, PhD

2 Associate Professor, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, PhD

Contact: hannaliventseva@gmail.com

Abstract

This article describes methods of working with students in the framework of the Ukrainian educational project “Depths of the Earth, the spiritual depths” (UAG). The main aim of this project is to increase the interest of students in geosciences and the profession of geologist. Among the project stakeholders are children of the Z-generation. The article describes the interactive methods of working implemented in the educational process. Many different events were prepared and created for students and teachers within the framework of the project: more than 100 lectures, seminars, scientific conferences, excursions, geological quizzes/quests in museums, field Olympiads and festivals.

Cite as: Liventseva, Hanna, & Krochak, Maryna. (2020). Interactive methods of studying geology with Z-generation children. European Geologist, 50. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4311715

Introduction

In Ukraine, there is an acute issue of encouraging young people to enrol in the geological faculties of domestic universities, since the prestige of the profession of geologist has fallen in recent decades. However, the demand for specialists in this field of science and production remains considerable. A few decades ago, the profession was fashionable and popular, stirring the minds of the grandparents of today’s students. The romanticism of geological expeditions to the farthest corners of the planet, the delightful feeling of the explorer, the delight of finding new deposits are of little concern to the new generation.

Today’s students are not familiar with the profession of a geologist; they are not aware of what geological science is and why it is necessary. At best, geology is associated with mining. Systematic educational and dissemination activities and corresponding competitions are needed to attract school youth to geology. It is important for us to reveal to students the diversity of fields of geological science, show a kaleidoscope of objects and phenomena, and tell them about modern professional methods and the use of computer technologies in exploration and production geology. This is an important task not only for individual organisations and volunteers but also for the state as a whole.

Transformation of working methods with modern children

The project “Depths of the Earth, the spiritual depths” was created in 2011. The mission of this project is not only to encourage young people to study geological science but also to increase the general knowledge base for students, to expand their access to information. The project started more than nine years ago at the initiative of the authors of the article with the full and comprehensive support of NADRA GROUP, a company providing integrative solutions in the field of effective use of natural resources. The project partner is the Institute of Geology of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

The aims, tasks, and issues of the project, the work packages within the project, and the results have been described in a number of publications. Over these years we have done a great deal of work and had amazing invaluable experiences, we have used traditional methods of communicating with students and we have created new ones, had successes, and – as in any business – failures. We have learned from our experience. We concluded experimentally that today interactive methods of work are beneficial in working with modern school-age children (Liventseva & Krochak 2014).

According to the famous generational theory of Neil Howe and William Strauss, different generations show different characteristics (Howe & Strauss, 1991). Children born after 2000 are currently preparing to become students. These are children of Generation Z. They are distinguished by a special attitude to learning, methods of obtaining information, the uniqueness of their perception and personal motivation to learn (Gurova & Evdokimova 2016a, 2016b; Cilliers, 2017). For the Z-generation, our experience shows that it is necessary to develop new forms of training and introduce modern methods based first on the visualisation of information, on the phased presentation of material with the achievement of the final concrete result. That makes them very different from children who went to school forty or even twenty years ago. Their successful training, learning, and skills cannot be based on a sense of duty, on fear of parents and teachers, but solely on interest. They are progressive youth, born in the Internet era, who are able to instantly process a huge amount of information, provided they are interested in it (Kozyr 2017).

Therefore, when they choose a learning format, they do not tolerate long boring lectures and notes. They prefer YouTube streaming content that is short in duration and with a clear message. True, they read paper books less and listen to audio books at an accelerated rate. In addition, the formula is perceived only after the teacher has framed it (like a graphic drawing). This is because, according to doctors and psychologists, they have a better-developed part of the brain that is responsible for receiving information visually. Consequently, they perceive it better in the form of tables, iconography, presentations and video. They are receptive to practical tasks with a clear purpose and specific results, but they get tired of theory. And in practical tasks, they prefer to move from one block of tasks to another in the form of a kind of intellectual quest (Gurova & Evdokimova, 2016a, 2016b).

We have encountered similar features of Z-generation children in practice. In 2012 the first educational project was a geological lecture hall/room, held in the Kyiv Palace of Children and Youth – the largest out-of-school educational institution in Ukraine. The lecture hall/room project was not very successful, although the topics of the lectures were very interesting, such as “Animals and Dinosaurs: An Evolutionary Arms Race for 200 million years (the problem of extinction of dinosaurs)”, “Fire-breathing mountains (volcanoes)”, “Geological research of Ukrainian scientists in Antarctica”, etc. During the lectures, lively presentations were used all the time, but it was quite difficult to keep the attention of the audience for 45-60 minutes. The lecture hall/room approach was in operation for only one year and, according to polls of teachers, did not arouse much interest among children.

In 2013 two approaches were taken. The first was scientific readings dedicated to the anniversaries of famous Ukrainian geologists – Volodymyr Vernadsky, Pavlo Tutkovsky, Yevgen Lazarenko, Volodymyr Bondarchyk and others. This was more successful, but still not the best format. The second was giving children the task to prepare reports on their own experiments, on observations in inanimate nature, on exploration of caves, etc. This format was more successful, reaching more than 300 children from different schools in the city, and arousing significant interest. Direct participation of children in discussions and presentations of their own research results worked for a positive result. All of the young participants were glad to receive books about geologists offered by the organisers as an award.

The next stage (2014) was geological quizzes. Teams of eight students answered questions, completed practical tasks in geology, drew, sculpted, sang and created living sculptures. And everything was related to geology. The spirit of competition, the desire to become the best, to win and receive the first prize became a significant incentive for students to learn more about geology and to acquire practical skills. Children learned how to properly assemble a hiking backpack, or identify rocks or document samples. During creative competitions, they used modelling clay to create a model of the solar system, a jewellery box with gems, and much more. This form of work has become one of the favourites of both the organisers and the participants. Geological quizzes are in the schedule of the annual work within the framework of our project.

Thus, the leaders of the project “Depths of the Earth, the spiritual depths” gradually came to realise that it is necessary to develop new and non-standard forms of education for children of Generation Z. This presupposes the introduction of new methods based primarily on the visualisation of information and the stage-by-stage presentation of the material (divided into semantic and logic blocks). The new methods take into account the desire of children to try their own strength, independently find answers to questions and draw the right conclusions, and to create models of geological objects with their own hands based on the information received. The adults learned to understand the motivation of children and tried to shape events in such a way as to arouse a keen interest in learning geology.

A further step in our work (2015) was the transfer of geological competitions to field conditions. This did not imply an expeditionary regime; the conditions of the city park were sufficient. This location has greatly expanded our capabilities. We were able to add tasks for orientation in the terrain using a map and a compass, tasks using the simplest geophysical instruments, and activities involved in organising the expeditionary life of geologists (setting up a tent, packing a backpack, etc.). We taught students how to describe landforms and how to sample sediments and rocks. Prerequisites for all stages: all competitions must be held in a dynamic form as concrete practical tasks. Not by boring lectures! At the final stage an award is given to each participant.

Excursions to geological museums are an important form of work with students. There are several dozen such museums in Ukraine.  In the city of Kyiv, where the project “Depths of the Earth, the spiritual depths” has been implemented, there are seven geological museums, not counting private collections available for viewing. Over the years of the project, we have conducted dozens of excursions, including thousands of students. The excursions introduce children to geological objects and phenomena, broaden their horizons, and give new knowledge about the earth sciences. Some of the children, and sometimes most of the group, get bored and do not listen to the guide, no matter how interesting and lively his speech is. Unfortunately, this fits into the psychological profile of Gen Z children. They do not see the point in the information they have heard and they lose interest in it.

During 2016-2017, we developed a new form of work in geological museums in the form of a quest. This is a kind of competition, where students receive a route sheet through the halls of the museum with tasks that can be completed only after studying the exhibits and stands of the museum. In this case, the child is motivated to find the right answer, he has interest and passion. At each stage of a quest, the participant receives a token, to which at the finish he can add a picture or a map, for which he/she receives a prize. The most common prizes are candy and chocolate. We conduct similar quests in geological museums every year. They are especially liked by children and their teachers, they are active and fun. The result is new information which is fixed in the memory, as it was obtained in the process of independent searching (Figures 1 and 2).


Figure 1 and 2: Scenes from the GeoQuest competition ‘Natural Resources of Ukraine’ held in the Natural Science Museum of the National Academy of
Sciences of Ukraine for students of Kyiv schools, with the support of the Ukrainian Association of Geologists.


One of the most successful and interesting forms of work to popularise the earth sciences and the profession of a geologist is a geological festival, which we dedicate to great anniversaries. The festival took place in the halls of Kyiv Palace of Children and Youth. We created and prepared ten locations with games and assignments on geological topics (Figures 3-5). At one location, students played chess from samples of combustible minerals. In another place, a model of an oil and gas reservoir was created from different types of chocolate. At one more point, they made up the route from Kyiv to Vienna of the first cars that drove on kerosene from one pharmacy-filling station to another. A location was dedicated to the history of oil production in Ukraine was presented. Children dressed up as fire fighters or rescuers worked on the sports ground. In the art studio, children painted pictures with oil and coal, in the concert hall they sang songs about geologists. These competitions and games were not only entertaining but also gave bits of information about geology and geologists.


Figure 3 and 4: Scenes from the GEOFEST Geological Festival held in the Kyiv Palace of Children and Youth, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Geological
Service of Ukraine and attended by 80 Kyiv students.


Figure 5: A drawing made with oil/petroleum from the creative task in the GEOFEST competition.


At each location the teams received points, which were added up to reveal the winner. But all the participants of the festival became winners, who at the end of the event received valuable gifts from sponsors (NADRA GROUP, JSC Ukrgasvydobuvannya). It is noteworthy that there were six of the most highly-qualified scholars among the mentors (organisers, trainers, jury members).

So, step by step, we developed and improved our activities, introduced new methods of working with the students, taking into account the characteristics of their generation, combining the accumulated practical experience and theoretical knowledge.

An important point in the interactive teaching of geology for Generation Z children is the development of teaching materials. We have developed a “Workbook for Geology Studies”. The workbook consists of thematic units for students to work with on their own. Each unit contains short illustrated information, which is interspersed with practical exercises. Completing assignments involves working with school textbooks on geography, atlases and maps, and searching for information on the Internet.

Some hands-on jobs require creative tasks such as drawing, writing essays and short stories. To consolidate the material and assess the knowledge gained, tests with questions have been developed. “Workbook” has successfully passed approbation in the study of the special course “Fundamentals of Geology” in schools in Kyiv and in out-of-school institutions. In the program of the course for secondary school “Depth of the Earth (foundations of geology)”, the authors were issued a Certificate of Registration of Copyright for the work (Liventseva & Krochak, 2019).

The project is now in its ninth year and is fulfilling the goals set for it. The European project ENGIE (Encouraging Girls to Study Geosciences and Engineering) helped to evaluate the results of our work qualitatively and quantitatively. We took part in it from the Public Organization “Ukrainian Association of Geologists”. Our participation in the European ENGIE project was a logical continuation of our systematic and consistent work with students.

A survey of schoolchildren (ages 12–17 conducted before the start of the project “Depths of the Earth, the spiritual depths”, showed an almost complete lack of knowledge of geology among children. During a youth conference in the National Ecology and Nature Centre of Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine (NENC) (2011), where children from 22 regions of Ukraine were present, we asked “Do you know someone who is working as a geoscience professional?” “Yes” – answered 3 children from 225!

From that moment, we began work to spread knowledge about geology and geologists among children. Sociological surveys of students about their interest in geology have become an important component of the ENGIE project. The results of the polls (Table 1) showed a significant increase in interest in earth sciences among children participating in the project “Depths of the Earth, the spiritual depths”. After nine years, almost half of the children participating in the survey were informed about the profession of a geologist, and we were able to interest children in geology as a field of activity.


Table 1. Changes in knowledge and ideas of schoolchildren about geology.

Year Do you know someone who is working as a geoscience professional?
  Number of children taking part in the survey Number of children who answered ‘Yes’ Percentage of children who answered ‘Yes’ Number of children who answered ‘No’ Percentage of children who answered ‘No’
2011 225 3 1.3% 222 98.7%
2020 205 96 46.9% 109 53.1%
  Would you consider working as a geological professional?
2020 205 56 27.1% 149 72.9%

Summary

Thus, during the course of the project, we have modernised our work with children of Generation Z, taking into account their peculiarities in receiving and perceiving information. We stimulated the motivation of students to acquire knowledge using different methods. The range of activities carried out within the framework of the project opened up the exciting world of geological phenomena and objects to hundreds of children. We told the younger generation about the wonderful profession of a geologist who learns the secrets of nature and the Earth. We have empowered children to be the geoscientists of tomorrow. We hope that by working in the trend of modern educational programs, we have planted in children’s souls and minds the desire to connect their future profession with the knowledge of the Earth and that the motto “Let’s be geologists” will become the motto of their lives.


References

Cilliers, E.J. 2017. The challenge of teaching Generation Z. PEOPLE: International Journal of Social Sciences, 3(1), 188-198.

Gurova, I. M. & Evdokimova, S. Sh. 2016a. Generation theory: a modern development and applied aspects. Topical Issues of Innovative Economy, 14. 78–86.

Gurova, I.M. & Evdokimova, S.Sh. 2016b. The theory of generations as a tool for analysis, formation and development of labour potential. Modernization Innovation. Development. 3(27), 150–159.

Howe, N. & Strauss, W. 1991. Generations: The History of America’s Future. New York: William Morrow & Company.

Kozyr, M.V. 2017. Integration of information pedagogy in the educational process: the theory of generations. Pedagogical Education: Theory and Practice. (Psychology. Pedagogy: Coll. Science), 27. 36–40.

Liventseva, G. & Krochak, M. 2014. Primary geological education in Ukraine. European Geologist, 38, p. 70-72.

Liventseva, H. & Krochak. M. 2019. Written “Course program for secondary school “Depth of the Earth (basics of geology)”. Copyright Registration № 92766, Ukraine.


This article has been published in European Geologist Journal 50 – Let’s become geologists! Challenges and opportunities in geoscience education in Europe

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