Learning geology in a classroom and laboratory is key to understanding and teaching Earth systems, but experiencing geology firsthand in the field is a whole different story. Instead of chalkboards on the horizon, wide-open vistas fill your eyes. Instead of typing notes on a keyboard, your hiking boots slide and skid on slick clays, and your hand reaches for a rock ledge that holds millions of years of history in its layers.
There's nothing like experiencing the extraordinary features of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison or Carlsbad Caverns for the first time, and each summer for the last 10 years Texas A&M University's College of Geosciences has given that opportunity to STEM educators from throughout Texas and the United States.
This year, Kayla Jubert, a science teacher at Cedaredge Middle School, was one of the lucky 36 educators participating in G-Camp for Teachers, which takes 36 fifth through 12th grade teachers on a three-week field trip through the Southwest U.S.
Jubert, who is beginning her fourth year at CMS, said she didn't learn a lot of geology in college so she seized the opportunity to gain more in-depth knowledge of a subject she's required to teach. "It turned out to be a fantastic program," she said.
This summer's itinerary began June 26 and concluded July 13, and included adventures everywhere from the slopes of volcanoes, to the footwalls of faults, in the depths of glacial valleys, on the toes of landslides, and in pristine streams and ancient marine deposits.
Jubert looks forward to sharing what she learned about the geology of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and the Colorado National Monument, both of which are familiar to her students. She also enjoyed discovering new destinations like the Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico.
"I didn't even know there were volcanoes in New Mexico!" she said.
Participants studied geological features and also developed curricula as they traversed Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, from some locations near sea level to those higher than 12,000 feet.
"Through astounding vistas and sights, such as Capulin Volcano, Great Sand Dunes, Carlsbad Caverns and the Pg-T boundary created when a meteorite stuck Earth, resulting in the extinction of dinosaurs, we map Earth's geological history," said Dr. Rick Giardino, the professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Texas A&M who developed and leads G-Camp.
Saudi Aramco is the lead sponsor of G-Camp, and the company has continually supported G-Camp for many years. Generous donations from Chevron and ConocoPhillips also helped support G-Camp in the program's early years. Attendees only have to pay for their transportation to College Station; once they arrive in Aggieland, their food, housing, and travel costs for the entire three weeks are covered by the program.
"My motto for the camp is, show and teach them a lot, keep them busy and you'll never have a complaint," Giardino said. "So far, our participants have proved me right. Teachers spend 12-hour days in an exhausting but exhilarating whirlwind of learning. They keep a daily field book of sketches, measurements and general observations, and develop lesson plans each night."
Jubert said the three weeks just flew by.
"I am humbled by our teachers' ability to translate their G-Camp experiences into life-changing opportunities for their students, and ultimately igniting their students' passion to pursue science as a career path," said Dr. Debbie Thomas, interim dean of the College of Geosciences. "I am in constant awe of Dr. Giardino's boundless energy and drive to provide life-changing professional development opportunities for our teachers."