OGDEN, Utah – Students of the geosciences department at Weber State University rock hounded during the summer, wielding hammers, chisels and picks to collect specimens so local elementary school children can experience hands-on science.
Members of WSU’s chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon (SGE), a national honor society for students in earth sciences, volunteered by gathering, cutting, breaking, painting and numbering 11 types of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. The specimens were then organized and labeled in rock boxes that will be delivered to 100 fourth grade classrooms in the Weber School District on Oct. 22.
“These rock boxes mean that students will be able to experience rocks with their five senses and gain a deeper connection to their learning experience,” said Sara Yearsley, SGE president, and coordinator of the project. “Hands-on exploration helps children learn more and remember what they have discovered.”
Besides enhancing math, verbal and analytical skills, the living textbooks will teach students about the formation, description and uses of each rock. They’ll learn that pumice is used in beauty products and toothpaste, and that basalt, found on ocean floors and on the moon, is used for road building, and that shale and coal may be responsible for heating homes and generating electrical power.
The idea for the rock boxes surfaced after Lori Brown, a fourth grade teacher at H. Guy Child Elementary in Ogden attended WSU’s Science Saturday last year and met Yearsley. “I wanted to find out where to locate rock samples to teach my science core,” Brown said. “Instead of directions on how to collect my own, I received some samples at the end of the event.”
This started a conversation between Brown and Yearsley about the need for more adequate specimens in the classroom.
SGE members decided to use their resources and address the need for three-dimensional learning by providing Brown with the first rock box in November 2011, along with a plan to assemble an additional 100
“Looking at a picture of a rock as opposed to actually touching and holding these rock samples has made a huge difference,” Brown said. “They have enhanced my students’ experience and enthusiasm for science.”
With the support of Jim Wilson, professor of geosciences at WSU, students took field trips to gather specimens in the Farmington Canyon Complex, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Southern Utah, Price and Box Elder County.
“Teachers have many resources to teach with,” Yearsley said. “This is just one small contribution by our club to play a big part in providing academic excellence in the community.”
Kathleen Nye, curriculum director with the Weber School District, will present the rock boxes to school principals at the district offices at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 22.
The following WSU students participated in the project: Tabitha Berghout, Mechelle Clinger, Amanda Gentry, Cassie Grether, Rhett Howell, Jeff Josephson, Kari McLaughlin, Josh Poulsen, Michele Sanders, Julie Taylor, Justin Williamson, Sara Yearsley and Betty Zaleski.
Sara Yearsley, president, Sigma Gamma Epsilon
Lori Brown, teacher, Weber School District
Kathleen Nye, curriculum director, Weber School District
Kimberly Jensen, University Communications