European Geologist Journal 50
Out-of-classroom activities for geoscience education
by Kyriaki Makri1, Fotios Danaskos2, Maria Tzima3
1 National Observatory of Athens, Institute of Environmental Research, Greece
2 8th Junior-Senior High School in Chalandri, Greece
3 Hellenic Survey of Geology & Mineral Exploration
The aim of this paper is to suggest and present out-of-classroom educational activities that will enhance students’ interest in geosciences. Direct experience with concrete materials and processes enables abstract concepts to be formed and aids comprehension, according to the literature. Furthermore, we suggest combining good structural and conceptual teaching of earth sciences with attractive interesting topics, i.e. making earth sciences something present and related to daily life. The goal of the present study is to create worksheets and methodological approaches for secondary schools teachers’ use. The proposed activities will be based on student contact with geological services (agencies) through visits to their workplaces and interviews with geologists, as well as visits to museums and exhibitions.
In order to adequately understand the concepts of geology, it is necessary to refer to earlier times and at the same time to build scientific models that are not governed by the usual natural laws that a student has been taught. This process is probably of the greatest difficulty during teaching geosciences, which has made geology a relatively inaccessible and unfriendly science for the students of Greek schools, in combination with the strictly scientific written language and the large volume of concepts to be mastered (Makri, 2015).
Interdisciplinary knowledge is required for the comprehension of Geosciences, leading the teachers to the need to adopt design and implementation of outdoor teaching strategies. In environmental research, it is accepted that a person who is aware and trained in environmental issues is able to develop an environmentally friendly attitude and mentality towards nature and the processes that occur in it. In times of environmental crisis and relentless transformation of the environment, through education geoscientists can lead the effort to prepare society for the changes to come and how to cope with them. Modern society demands citizens to rationally manage environmental resources, as well as the consequences of geological phenomena, by understanding the mechanism of their creation. It is extremely doubtful whether these issues can be approached without basic knowledge about terrain, water, weather, rocks, solid and liquid fuel extraction, earthquakes, landslides and mining activity. Geoscientists themselves have a significant responsibility for this situation, as they are often trapped only in the production and provision of scientific information. They should also be taking an active role in all aspects of the educational process. In the present work, two different ways are proposed to assist teachers in integrating geology into extracurricular activities.
There are various methodologies for preparing out-of-classroom activities, such as those suggested by Fedesco et al. (2020), who identified specific tips to help educators have a successful field-based learning experience. For their application in school it is desirable to consider the following:
- Record in detail in a document the goals and expectations from the extracurricular activity.
- Prepare an evaluation sheet for the students regarding the extracurricular activity they participated in.
- Describe in detail the sections that the activity includes: a) duration, b) the staff of the visiting institution and c) special access and security requirements, if any.
Worksheet organisation 1: Urban Geology
As Bampton says, urban geology is ‘the study of the inorganic components of cities and of Earth surface processes in their environs’ (Bampton, 1999, p. 1). To understand the environment of a city, it is essential to consider the interplay between environmental and social components. Urban geology can be a key field of extracurricular activities, because it can answer questions such as: i) the field of work of geologists, ii) the professional field of geology applications in my city and iii) the importance of geology for my city.
For a successful urban geology activity, students should:
- Observe basic geological structures;
- Connect the learned knowledge with experiential experiences;
- Discover geological phenomena in their daily life;
- Evaluate the impact of human activity on the urban environment.
The field of application of the activity is the city and all its elements. More specifically, one can observe and search for material in places such as:
- Floors and lined walls of apartment buildings and shops;
- Indoor-outdoor areas of public buildings (cultural buildings, administrative buildings, etc.);
- Indoor-outdoor areas of churches;
- Decorative and building materials.
When planning the activity, here are some important instructions and methodology that should be taken into account in order to have a positive result (Figure 1).
Step 1: First prepare the route by checking out different alternatives. This way you will be sure that you have covered all parts of interest in your city.
Step 2: Prepare the route based on the cognitive level of the students. It is important for the students to be able to identify some of the knowledge they already have in order to pique their interest.
Step 3: Strictly avoid scientific terms and simplify your terminology. The purpose of the activity is to make geosciences familiar, so the vocabulary should be familiar from the daily teaching at school.
Step 4: Use as many supplemental materials and tools as possible and necessary, such as maps, compass, magnifier, etc.
Step 5: Include interdisciplinary and scientific elements from the daily and social life of the city in the activity.
Figure 1: Methodology for the organisation of an urban geology field trip.
After taking these steps, check the safety measures and make sure that the route to the city that you have prepared meets the safety rules for your students.
The observations that an urban geology activity for students should include can be summarised as follows:
- Geological observations
- Are there any rock formations along the way?
- Is there anything remarkable about geomorphology?
- How has geomorphology been affected by human activities?
- Observations on human structures
- What material is used to build the monuments?
- Can other elements be observed (tectonic, stratigraphic, paleontological, etc.) in structural or decorative stones?
- Historical significance of geology
- How did local geology affect the structure and development of the city?
Typical and notable examples of urban activities for students are mentioned in the seminar entitled “Field Geosciences Teaching Module: Cities and Exomuseums” of the GEOschools Project (Fermeli et al., 2014).
Planning field trips is the most critical step for most teachers. (Kean & Enochs, 2001).
Worksheet organisation 2: Visit to a research institution
According to modern pedagogical approaches, science should not only impart to students basic scientific knowledge but should also prepare citizens to make informed decisions in society (Mansour, 2009). New educational approaches of teaching, such as exploratory learning, where students are actively involved in the learning process, attract the interest of students and contribute to the acquisition and cultivation of important skills (European Commission, 2007). Research institutes and institutions as well as initiatives linking students to the scientific way of thinking can play an important role in general education, providing students and teachers with new opportunities to develop important skills that will make them active citizens of the twenty-first century and competitive within any work and social group.
The main goal of the proposed action is to introduce students to the research mind-set so that they can understand and relate to the principles of science they learn in the curriculum. At the same time, through the research process, students will be made aware of the effects of geological phenomena in everyday life. Students have the opportunity to enter the role of researcher and therefore to apply the stages of a scientific method. The aim is for students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills so that they can formulate solutions scientifically and identify patterns and methodologies that they can apply to other problem-solving through collaboration with their classmates.
Specifically, the activity will put the student in a situation to:
- Identify a phenomenon (e.g. a natural hazard);
- Observe natural phenomena and interpret them scientifically (e.g. seismological observations, paleontological findings, climatic and meteorological data);
- Perform experimental exercises;
- Process data and come to conclusions;
- Judge the consequences of natural phenomena using with scientific criteria.
When planning the activity, the organiser should consider important instructions and methodology. Information should be acquired, such as whether the institution accepts student visits and how the safety rules are met, and visits to dangerous sites such as construction sites and mines should be avoided. The methodology for the organisation of field site visits to institutions is presented as follows (Figure 2):
Step 1: Choose an institution that is close to the school. The aim is that students could get in touch not only with the research and the profession of geologist, but also with a professional structure of their area.
Step 2: The subject of the institution should have been introduced in the classroom. It is recommended that there is a class briefing on the role of the organisation you will be visiting.
Step 3: Contact the person in charge of the organisation beforehand. Prepare them for your students’ level of knowledge and needs.
Step 4: Create a worksheet with short, structured employee interviews. The aim is for students to gather as much information as possible about the subject matter.
Step 5: Connect the activity with social and cultural elements of the area in which it is located.
Suitable bodies for the organisation of extracurricular activities could be the national geological survey, energy supply companies, observatories, seismological laboratories, etc.
In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, extracurricular activities can be an alternative approach for educational practice, as an outdoor activity. It is noted that the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs in Greece recommends outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, it can be an opportunity to connect geosciences with society and everyday life. The above methodology and objectives can be used for the organisation and selection of extracurricular activities.
Figure 2: Methodology for the organisation of field site visits.
In the present article, two proposals for the integration of extracurricular activities for the Geosciences are presented. Practical work stimulates interest in geology and allows students to actively participate in gaining new information, having a direct effect on establishing links between what they learn and the reality of the outside world (Gomes et al., 2016). The goal was to provide teachers with an instant-use guide in the classroom. The activities will help the students to be in direct contact with the subject of geosciences and at the same time to avoid the daily teaching in the classroom, which is not recommended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They can also contribute to the increased interest of students in the profession of geology, as they will come into direct contact with the subject and career opportunities in it. Finally, extracurricular activities in urban geology and visits to research centres and institutions are a unique opportunity to connect geosciences with society and everyday life.
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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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