State of the Planet

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New York City Rocks Spark Cultural Exchange

Sharing Teaching Strategies with South African Teachers

The workshop that we are here leading is designed to help South Africa high school teachers make geology come alive for their students. We want to share basic concepts, such as how rocks and minerals form, but also provide activities and materials that can make the concepts more accessible.

In planning the workshop, we outlined basic geologic themes that we wanted to get across: geologic time, plate tectonics and the rock cycle. As the “themes ambassador,” I’ll be giving lectures on all three topics on the first day of the workshop.

It was an exhausting first day but rewarding. The high school teachers were so engaged and asked so many great questions that both of my lectures went significantly over the time limit. We discussed how teaching geologic time can conflict with religious teaching, the formation of hot spots and how volcanoes can impact climate. After the first lecture, Jay shared some simple activities around plate tectonics and plate motions that the teachers could reproduce in their classrooms.

After the rock cycle lecture, Jay hosted a show-and-tell with our New York City rocks. He explained to the teachers that he typically gets his rocks for free at city construction sites. Usually the construction companies pay people to haul the rocks away so workers are happy to let Jay take as many as he wants. The teachers clapped and applauded when he handed out our samples of Manhattan schist, a metamorphic rock, Palisades sill, an igneous rock, and New Jersey arkose, a sedimentary rock, for them to take back to their classrooms. He also distributed a map showing where the rocks were collected and discussed how the teachers could make a similar map for rocks in their area.

It was a great first day and I’m looking forward to a fun and educational week.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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13 years ago

There are some brilliant geology departments in South Africa The geological strata of SA is well documented – did these guys go to USA for another reason?



13 years ago

It was very enlightening to hear from the teachers their views and cultural norms of education as compared to a typical American classroom. For example, there are 25 unofficial languages in South Africa and 11 official languages. So, you never know how many different languages your 50-80 students (yes, I said 50-80 children in one room!) are able to speak and understand. In addition, religion is a huge overarching cultural norm in South African society and it tends to also come up in questions/comments during classroom discussions with their “learners”, as they are referred to in SA- a topic American teacehrs tend to shy away from.
On our next trip (smile), I would love to visit one of their classrooms to see the diversity of learners and how they have integrated inquiry-based activities using rock and mineral samples in their lessons.