BY DAN CLARK
The Yoho-Burgess Shale Foundation
Children peer into the beginnings of life at the Burgess
Shale and the foundation's Earth and Science Learning
Centre in Field, B.C.
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
- 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
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.