Terri-Jane Yuzda

Foundation Provides Unique Approach to Earth Science Education

The Yoho-Burgess Shale Foundation

Through Youthful Eyes
Children peer into the beginnings of life at the Burgess Shale and the foundation's Earth and Science Learning Centre in Field, B.C.

"…It seems earth science is the forgotten science in our classrooms. However, the need for professional geoscientists in our society has not diminished, and is now greater than ever with concerns over environmental issues. There is a need for increased science literacy by the general population, so that the importance of cience can be fully appreciated…"
- Lisa Holmstrom

Until I stumbled upon a geology course during university, I knew nothing of the earth sciences. At the University of Calgary, Rocks for Jocks 201 opened my eyes to the earth we walk on and irreversibly changed my academic career. I just wish that I had known something of these sciences before I got to university!

My grade school education didn't introduce me to the geosciences. As an honour role student aiming for matriculation, I took advanced pure science without ever hearing about plate tectonics or geologic time. Upon reflection, it seems that the geosciences were the forgotten disciplines in my grade school classroom. They still are today.

Increasing the profile of earth sciences inside and outside of our schools is of critical importance to society, because an understanding of our Earth is fundamental to intelligent debate on resource management, natural hazards and environmental issues, which affect us all. The students of today are the managers of tomorrow, who will be dealing with issues rooted in the geosciences.

Unfortunately, the high school curriculum bypasses the earth sciences. Earth science content makes up a minor proportion of junior and intermediate school science curricula and is often absent in the high school curricula for pure science courses. As a result, many of the top students who are pursuing post-secondary education in science-related careers have little exposure to the geosciences.

Attempting to change provincial curricula to explicitly include more earth science is difficult and time consuming. In order to reach science students, it is necessary to find a way to incorporate earth science into the existing pure science curricula.

Geology is a massive topic and the best
classroom is one without walls

The Yoho-Burgess Shale Foundation and a team of dedicated professional geologists have developed the unique Applied Continuum Theory to introduce earth science into the pure science curricula. This cross-curricular approach illustrates scientific principles taught in biology, chemistry and physics with real-world examples from earth science.

The benefit of this approach is that it makes the theory more relevant to students by relating it to their surroundings. The foundation offers training to high school science teachers through Making Connections: Science in the Mountains, an earth science enrichment workshop, which will be offered Aug. 22-24.

Outside the curriculum are numerous educational opportunities on guided hikes and walks. The foundation provides a variety of earth science educational programs during the summer holidays from July 1 to Sept. 15. These include guided hikes to the Burgess Shale (Walcott Quarry) and Mt. Stephen fossil beds.

There is no better way to gain a sense of the scale of the earth sciences than on a high mountain hike, surrounded by impressive peaks! Geology is a massive topic and the best classroom is one without walls. These programs are available to students and teachers, as well as the general public.

Changes in earth science education sprout from the timely and essential transfer of new knowledge and paradigms among the research community, teachers and students. At a deeper, more important level, the changes the foundation promotes in earth science education are critical to our future.

A citizenry literate in the earth sciences is essential to inform political and economic decisions that affect people on local, regional and global levels.

Dan Clark, the Yoho-Burgess Shale Foundation education coordinator, graduated from the University of Calgary in 1997 with honours. He has a bachelor of science degree in geography, specializing in geomorphology.


Lisa Holmstrom and a team of volunteers have been instrumental in developing the Applied Continuum Theory. The volunteers are Philip Benham (Shell), Clinton Tippett, P.Geol., (Shell), Jon Dudley, P.Geol., (CNRL), Charles Henderson, P.Geol., (U of C), Darren Edwards (Shell), and Stan Stancliffe, P.Geol., (Esso).

Sponsorship of the Teacher Training Workshop has been provided by the EdGeo program of the Canadian Geoscience Education Network, Suncor Energy Foundation, the Canadian Geological Foundation and the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologist Educational Trust Fund.

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