Report from the Popular Geology Committee

Title: Report from the Popular Geology Committee

Author: Jerry Cuzella

Publication: The Outcrop, July 2002, p. 1, 6-7

The Popular Geology Committee of RMAG is the group within the association that is involved in public educational activities and community outreach. The committee affords an avenue for RMAG members to share their interest and enthusiasm for the geological sciences with the community and the K-12 schools through various programs. The committee, through its members and contacts, has developed a synergy with other geological associations and museums in an effort to strengthen its link to the public. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, the Colorado Scientific Society, the American Geological Institute, and the Colorado Mining Exhibit Foundation are some of the organizations that the committee has developed a working relationship with in its public outreach efforts.

This past year the committee, in conjunction with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Colorado Geological Survey, and the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge, was involved with the Denver Division of Theatres and Arenas for the development of a geological exhibit at the new Red Rocks Visitor Center. The exhibit is currently under construction and features a geologic time-scale clock, dinosaur footprints, and artistic renditions and descriptions of paleoenvironments for key geologic time periods in the development of rock formations in the Red Rocks area. Geological signage along some of the nature trails, a reference list of pertinent geological literature, and an interactive educational CD-ROM are just a few of the continuing projects that the committee is involved with at Red Rocks.

During the Labor Day Weekend at the annual “Taste of Colorado,” the committee participated with the Colorado Mining Exhibit Foundation. More than 25,000 people, including over 2,000 teachers, circulated through the exhibit, which was accommodated in a 40 ft x 40 ft tent. It is a walk-through display with gold-panning demonstrations for children, and free educational materials for teachers, home-schoolers, scout troops, and civic leaders. This year we plan to feature a presentation of RMAG and some of its outreach programs. Although in past years many of the exhibits have focused on the mining industry, as part of the RMAG exhibit we plan to showcase the petroleum industry and its role in the state’s economy.

Requests for speakers for K-12 schools in the Denver Front Range are directed through the RMAG office to the committee chairman, and an email contact is made to a directory of volunteer speakers. Arrangements are then made with the volunteer and the teacher for an appropriate time and subject material. Those RMAG members who have had the opportunity to visit a classroom and make a presentation will attest to how rewarding an experience it is. Often, this is the first time these young students have ever met a geologist or working scientist, and they are eager to learn about geology and applied science. To assist speakers with their presentations, we have identified resources for demonstrational materials, with some material readily available at the RMAG offices. One of the most favorite resources is from the Colorado School Mines Museum, which has assembled rock and mineral study sets with accompanying laboratory exercises. These study sets and exercises are geared to the Colorado CSAP test and are a convenient and popular educational tool, particularly for teachers who may not be experienced in the earth sciences. These kits have enough material for a class size of 24 students working in pairs. A complete study set of rocks and minerals is on loan to RMAG and is available to be checked out from the RMAG office.

Recently, the committee has decided to enhance its teaching and outreach service by creating an interactive, multimedia CD-ROM on the geologic history of the Denver region to be distributed free to schools in the Denver metro area. The goal of this CD is threefold. The first is to provide accurate information to teachers and their students on the geology of the area. Even though most teachers are excellent in their teaching methods, many do not have the specific information to teach their students about the interesting history that lies beneath and around their homes. The presentation is designed to capture the imagination of the inquisitive mind by utilizing engaging diagrams, animation, video and sound. The second goal is to provide materials that teachers can use in their classrooms. This way, the teacher has a wealth of geology classroom materials, many specifically designed for the Denver area. The third and possibly most important goal is to provide a listing of internet and web addresses that directly tie to the teaching of the geologic sciences. Because teachers are often overwhelmed and have little time to research the resources available in an area, this project will identify all of the resources, both human and physical, that are readily available for classroom use. In addition to the CD-ROM being freely distributed to metro area schools, a version of the program will be used on a touch-screen activated computer in the new Visitors Center at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The committee is presently looking for funding to sponsor development of the CD.

Working with the Colorado Scientific Society and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District the committee has supported the posting of geologic signs along the route to Buffalo Bill’s gravesite. This is a great tool for building a public awareness of the local geology.

The committee, in conjunction with the RMAG Foundation, continues to sponsor the “Earth Science Teacher of the Year” award. This in a small way shows the association’s appreciation for the dedication and the positive impact earth science teachers make in our schools every year.

This coming October for “Earth Science Week,” the committee plans to sponsor an essay contest for students in grades 5 through 8. This contest is intended to create an awareness of geology and earth resources and the role they play in our standard of living. The winner for each grade will be presented with a cash award.

The committee meets after work hours on the first Thursday of the month at the offices of Thomasson Partner Associates. The committee is grateful to Ray Thomasson for providing a convenient location and ample space for committee meetings. Participation on the committee is open to any RMAG member who wishes to become involved in public service to the community. We are looking for volunteers to work on the continuing activities and encourage additional and innovative ideas from the RMAG membership on new areas for future involvement.