The Classroom is the Way Out!

In the Earth Sciences, notions of global interdependence and interconnectedness arise in such a natural manner, that they often remain tacit.  For me, one of the guiding forces while developing courses and working with students is to highlight the value of understanding problems from this systemic perspective that is intuitive to our field, both in and out of the classroom. 

These pages are a sampler of how my teaching philosophy is expressed in the different courses that I have developed and taught while at Penn State DuBois. 



Planetary-wide events such as large asteroidal collisions are, in a sense, the extreme end member of geohazards that cannot be managed by a single country. Before discounting these processes as rare, it is sufficient to look at the full Moon.  Many of the most striking features on its surface formed by very large impacts. The surface of the Earth has received as many impacts, but our geologically active planet has nearly erased all evidence. In EARTH 400 (Earth & the Solar System), I lead a trip in collaboration with the Ontario Geological Survey to the second largest impact structure on Earth in Sudbury, Canada. Sudbury is a thriving mining community in Northern Ontario, whose vast Nickel deposits probably formed as a consequence of the impact. Aside from the opportunity to observe the effects of a large impact, Sudbury and the road trip leading to this structure are brimful of igneous, metamorphic, and
sedimentary outcrops.

Waste management and disposal are global problem that can be mitigated by small changes in our individual behaviors, such as recycling and reusing.  In GEOSC 303 (Environmental Geology), students are asked to prepare presentation for fellow freshmen, educating them on the value of recycling and rationale for seemingly mundane activities such as presorting waste.  In EARTH 400 (Earth & the Solar System), students follow the atoms in cell phones from the Big Bang to the Landfill, in an effort to demonstrate the limits of the Earth elemental budget.  The rapid demand for Rare Earth Elements and Heavy Metals that formed in Supernovae is discussed in detail.

From a practical standpoint, interconnectedness between skills learned in the classrooms and those used in the workplace is another critical link that I strive to make as part of my course design. Two projects have been conceived to make that connection a central part courses such as GEOSC 201.  In this course, students will near to use a number of technology tools (blogging, video lab reports, etc) and will produce videos exploring careers in the Geosciences as part of their term papers, "What does it take to be a Volcanologist?" and "What does it take to be a Planetary Scientist?" 

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