Teach your children rocks

teach geology

Eldridge Moores is a grand old man of California geology, and indeed of American geology. That’s him talking about structural geology with his arms, at the intersection of Tunnel Road and Caldecott Lane in early May 2005. He played Virgil to John McPhee’s Dante in Assembling California. Lately Eldridge has been pushing the State of California to do something very simple and obvious: recognize high-school geology as a subject satisfying the lab requirement for California college admission.

It’s obvious because geology is an applied version of every other science: rocks are chemicals, geologic processes follow the laws of physics, fossils are a branch of biology. Indeed, every lab science originated in practical problems with the world around us. The world is still there, and geologists are its intimates.

It’s simple because we have a national and state consensus around supporting science, especially environmental science, with strong leadership from President Obama and Governor Schwarzenegger. Eldridge has lobbied every year for adding Earth science to the lab science requirement. This year both the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and the National Earth Science Teacher Association are joining his efforts, and so am I, and I would love it if you did too.

It’s important because you may notice that only one person in this photo was younger than 25. Somewhere between the age when we’re all dinosaur fanatics and adulthood, geology seems to get lost. Part of fixing that is giving high schools a bit more incentive to offer Earth science courses.

The procedure is to write a letter (email or paper) to the UC Academic Council, which is right here in Oakland, and other UC officials. They are laying groundwork for the next set of curriculum guidelines for high schools, and time is critical. The call to action, talking points and a sample letter are all posted by “Geotripper” Garry Hayes on the NAGT Far West Section blog. Garry puts it well here: “Earth Science has always taken a back seat to chemistry and physics, and yet is most vivid example of chemistry and physics at work in the real world. We need to support the teaching of the earth sciences at the secondary level.”

3 Responses to “Teach your children rocks”

  1. Andrew Says:

    An experienced geology instructor, George Turner, has responded on his Eclectic Plagiodoxy blog (and what a name!) to note that Earth science courses in high school have long been known as an easy way out of science requirements: “The unintended consequences of adding earth science to the high school curriculum has been the subtraction of basic science skill courses from their study lists by many students, to their ultimate detriment.”

    I have to take that comment seriously. But I do think that Moores’ proposal would benefit everyone if physics/chemistry teachers and geology teachers would get together and reinforce each others’ lessons. Rocks and minerals are viscerally engaging objects that can help ground the abstract techniques of these older sciences. I think his proposal is a remedy for the unintended way that geology has turned into a “gut” course, to use my old college slang.

    But confession time: One attraction of geology for me was exactly that non-mathematical, qualititative side. Only as my studies have continued do I recognize the value of mathematics in Earth science. Math was just a subject I couldn’t learn as fast as the curriculum demanded.

  2. Kelly Says:

    I took Geology when I was in High School. My HS did not offer it so I took it at the local Junior College. My HS did recognize it as a lab class for me to graduate and I got to transfer the credits as college credits as well. Bonus! I think more students and parents should look into taking JC classes while in HS.

  3. Garry Hayes (Geotripper) Says:

    Thanks for the support!

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