Jerome Lesemann, VIU earth science professor, and Gerri McEwen, technician, check a rock for evidence of fossils at Departure Bay Beach on Tuesday. VIU earth science department staff were collecting samples for introductory geology teaching kits that can be supplied to K-12 classes. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

VIU staff go rock-hunting in Nanaimo for grade-school geology courses

University’s earth science department creating introductory teaching kits for schools

The rocks under your feet can be worth their weight in gold as teaching aids for school children taking early steps into learning about geology.

Vancouver Island University hopes its rock-collecting efforts will spark an interest in earth science and maybe even inspire a new generation of scientists in the field of geology.

VIU’s earth science department staff spent some time Tuesday afternoon scouring the south portion of Departure Bay beach for some interesting samples to put into teaching kits for introductory earth science courses in Nanaimo’s schools.

“We’re doing it because we’re working on a project to build some mineral and rock kits for schools in the Nanaimo and Ladysmith school district, but also other school districts that might be interested,” said Jerome Lesemann, VIU professor of earth sciences.

Everything humans grow for food, the circuits in cell phones to the paint on homes and vehicles are all derived from minerals in the earth, but many people don’t understand the important roles rocks and minerals play and how vital geology is to daily life, notes a VIU press release.

Departure Bay Beach offers a variety of volcanic and sedimentary rock and mineral samples – some brought to the site by rock outcrop erosion, others transported there by glaciation – and fossils, making it a handy place to go picking for geology teaching kits.

“It’s good here because it’s easily accessible and it kind of captures some the diversity of the different rock types we find in this area … What we’ve done in the past is we’ve lent out some of our own samples from our department at the university, but that was why we started building these kits. There was a lot of demand for these materials and we figure that we should probably find a way of organizing it more formally so that people have a kit at their own school or come to VIU and borrow it for however long they might need,” Lesemann said.

The assembled kits, put together with help of a $10,000 grant from the Canadian Geological Foundation, will include activities that will teach the characteristics of rocks and minerals, how they formed and what that can tell about geological environments.

Teachers interested in learning more about the kits and VIU’s earth sciences department K-12 education resources can click this link or contact Lesemann at jerome.lesemann@viu.ca.



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