Improving Teacher Quality Grant Funds Geology Field Trip

July 23, 2012

Improving Teacher Quality Grant Funds Geology Field Trip

VALDOSTA -- Dr. Mark Groszos, associate professor of geology in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences, studies how rocks tell the story of the Earth’s history. With a mission to enhance instruction of this subject in public schools, Groszos recently led a group of teachers on a statewide excursion reinforcing basic geologic concepts.

In an effort to integrate biological perspectives into the project, Groszos was joined by Dr. Leslie S. Jones, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Catherine Bush, assistant professor of biology, during the trip. Bush offered insight on the plant science of Georgia, while Jones emphasized ecology and science education.

The Geology of Georgia Field Trip included a seven-day bus trip to Georgia’s state parks and other locations well known for geological features. Fourteen teachers from different schools throughout the state participated in the field trip. The lessons focused on topics that are central to sixth grade Earth Science, but the group included 14 teachers who teach everything from elementary school to high school environmental science.

“An understanding of the natural world is useful throughout life, but our children don’t automatically develop an interest in science in school,” Groszos said. “We sought to reach their teachers, get them more excited about the material they deliver and help them tweak their imaginations so they can share the interesting aspects of science as they teach it. Our ultimate goal is to get the students excited about science early in life. A solid foundation in science ultimately prepares our students to become better leaders.”

Participants took hikes along Stone Mountain, Pine Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, the Great Smoky Fault and the Jekyll Island beach. They examined sandstones, mudstones, limestone and marble boulders as well as area landforms. Rocks were collected from various sites as teaching samples.

Groszos’ instruction on geology was complemented by information on various plants by Bush, and then followed up by Jones with a look at living organisms in their natural environments.

“It was a great interplay of our fields,” said Jones, who specializes in science education. “Teachers were not the only ones who benefited from the trip. As biologists, Dr. Bush and I were awestruck by what we learned about geology. Dr. Groszos is such a gifted instructor. He was able to break down concepts until it all made sense to us.”

Jones said that before the trip, she had never had a geology course and had taught herself enough about the subject to teach natural history.

“A rock was just a rock to me,” she said. “However, I took some valuable information from this trip. I’m sure I took well over 2,000 pictures throughout the week -- enough to make a 365-slide presentation. I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget any of what I learned.”

The Teacher Quality Field Trip was funded through a $52,984 sub-award from the University of Georgia, under the U.S. Department of Education’s Improving Teacher Quality program. The program awards formula grants for state-level activities that focus on professional development of teachers and increasing their effectiveness in the classroom.

“An investment in teachers pays dividends down the road,” said Dr. Connie Richards, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This field trip is indicative of the power of integrative learning that both the teachers and instructors took away from this experience. Because subjects in school often have single titles like Earth science and chemistry, students do not always see the connects between and among their courses. I am deeply grateful for the Improving Teacher Quality grants that allow teachers to participate in experiences such as this one and to pass on what they have learned to their students for years to come.”