President’s Column – August 2005

Title: Kids!
Author: Elmo Brown
Publication: The Outcrop, August 2005, p. 3, 7

A recent study conducted by The American Geological Institute (AGI) shows that earth science education tends to be woefully lacking in the United States. The study discovered that for the average public school student, there is a 60% chance that the student will go through the entire K-12 experience without having a teacher who has ever taken a college-level earth science course. Of those teachers who teach earth science, only 39% have more than 6 credit hours in the discipline. Based on personal experience as a former teacher in the Denver area, I can attest that the textbooks, which some of the less trained teachers totally rely upon, unfortunately often contain erroneous information and sometimes are the vehicles for political points of view. This is why we geoscientists need to be involved.

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Elmo Boy Scout: Elmo Brown (back row, 4th from right) prepares to hike 70 miles across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Philmont Scout Ranch with some of his scouting buddies. Part of the trip included panning for gold at French Henry camp. Was this the event that guided this young man into a career of geology? Or, was it collecting marine fossils from the Cretaceous limestones around his hometown of Austin, Texas? These all probably contributed but it was a dedicated and well-versed 8th grade science teacher that planted the initial geologic seed.

With a new school year ready to begin, the RMAG is once again actively pursuing an aggressive policy to promote science education with an emphasis on the teaching of earth science. Sometime in the middle of this month, the RMAG will be mailing CDs detailing the geology of Red Rocks Park and Dinosaur Ridge on the west side of the metro area to approximately 600 Denver-area K-12 schools. An additional 400 CDs will be available for distribution to individual teachers when RMAG members volunteer as speakers. The CD project, spearheaded by the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge, not only contains basic information on the geology; it also includes virtual tours of Red Rocks Park and the newly opened Triceratops Trail adjacent to Fossil Trace Golf Course in Golden, and virtual and audio tours of Dinosaur Ridge National Natural Landmark.

The CD project was initiated as the final piece of the geologic display for the City of Denver’s Red Rocks Park visitor center, an exhibit designed in part by the members of the RMAG Popular Geology committee chaired by Jerry Cuzella. The finished digital presentation has now been included in the computer kiosks of that center as well as the visitor center at Dinosaur Ridge. In addition to content expertise from the committee, the RMAG underwrote the financing of the CD with a sizable donation from the RMAG Foundation. The Colorado Geologic Survey, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Greater Denver Area Gem and Mineral District, the Denver Foundation, and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District also contributed to the project.

Other outreach projects that the Popular Geology committee undertakes during the year include volunteering at the mining exhibit sponsored by the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) at the Taste of Colorado celebration in downtown Denver, setting up and manning a booth at the Colorado Association of Science Teachers (CAST) convention, and choosing a Teacher of the Year awardee who usually becomes the RMAG’s nominee for the AAPG national award. The RMAG also recognizes outstanding student scientists with awards for the best earth science exhibits at the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair.

One of the more recent endeavors that some of our members have undertaken is the publication of a geologic guide to Peaceful Valley Boy Scout Ranch, located southeast of Denver. The Boy Scouts of America were so impressed with this publication that the national organization has asked RMAG members to write and publish a geologic guide for Philmont Scout Ranch, a 215-square-mile preserve in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. And this is not the first time these RMAG members have been involved with this particular ranch. For the last several years, Ed Warner has run a program that provides guest geologists for three of the camps within Philmont. The volunteers spend a week camping at French Henry, Baldy Town, or Cyphers Mine campgrounds talking geology to scouts as the young men backpack their way across the ranch. The success of this venture has prompted the RMAG to initiate discussions with Great Sand Dunes National Park to flange out a program that may be similar to the one at Philmont.

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Duff Kerr volunteers in the RMAG booth at the Colorado Association of Science Teachers convention.

Finally, as stated in a previous President’s Column, many of our members donate their time as guest speakers in the classroom or as guides at places like Dinosaur Ridge or Philmont Scout Ranch. After the CD mailing we will need plenty of people to fill guest speaker slots. So if you are interested in volunteering as an RMAG guest speaker, please contact Jerry Cuzella at jerryc49@aoI.com. For a more festive occasion, why not volunteer at the mining exhibit at the Taste of Colorado on Labor Day weekend? If interested, contact Guy Johnson at gpj222@aol.com,or at 303-969-0365. If spending some time on the outcrop is more your style, contact the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge at 303-697-3466 and volunteer to be a guide. Or if camping and chatting geology in the back country of Philmont Scout Ranch appeals to you, contact Ed Warner at ewarn@ix.netcom.com. He starts taking ‘reservations’ around January 15th of each year. And if you are interested in nominating a teacher you think exemplifies excellence in teaching of earth science, keep an eye out for notices in future issues of this publication. In the end you will find that volunteering in any of these projects not only promotes science education; it also is a very fulfilling endeavor.

 

 

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