Experiential education exemplified through Earth Sciences field trip

The cold weather didn’t stop a group of students from making a trip up north this April.

Hernan Ugalde, Adjunct Professor for the Department of Earth Sciences, led the group of nine students to 10 different locations in the Bracebridge area as part of a field trip for ERSC 4P01 – Advanced Structural Geology.

After securing a Teaching and Learning Innovation (TALI) grant, Ugalde planned out the trip so his students could apply the concepts they learned in class to real-world scenarios.

In its third-year prerequisite, students focus more on the basic concepts of how rocks fracture and deform from a strain or stress point of view. This course further teaches students about additional concepts regarding the deformation of rock, with more of an emphasis on ductile deformation (i.e. how rocks fold) and the field recognition and description of all these features.

“Geology is all about recognizing features in the field,” said Ugalde. “And while you can show pictures of how things look like in real life, that is never the same as seeing them on a fresh or weathered rock face.”

“Most of the time you have a combination of features (e.g. a fold that has been deformed by joints or fractures after), and you can’t really replicate these features with photos on the screen,” he added.

One week before the trip, Ugalde travelled to the area and scouted out locations for the students to examine. At each location, students are given a brief explanation on the geological context for that site and are then asked to look at the rock face and give an overview of what they saw (e.g. what kind of rocks, what kind of deformation features).

Students then took measurements with their compasses which were later processed through compilation diagrams. These diagrams give an idea on the main directions of stress that each site has suffered. The measurements also help in forming a 3D view from the outcrop itself and provide insight into important quantitative measurements as well.

As a follow-up, the students who attended the trip work on a report that will provide a summary of the location, geology, sketches, measurements for all 10 sites.

The trip itself is an example of the many experiential education opportunities that are available for students in the Faculty of Math and Science both inside and outside the classroom.

What Students Have to Say:

“I found it very beneficial to apply the theoretical knowledge learned in lectures and labs, to real-life situations you would see in the workforce.” – Brendan Llew-Williams

“I feel that I have learned more than I have over a semester of learning. Being able to visualize and find diagnostic properties within a rock formation rather than looking at diagrams from a lecture was, to me, so much more beneficial.” – Thomas Henley

“The field trip was invaluable, especially for structural geology.  Some of the concepts learned in a lecture setting aren’t easily grasped until you can see them in real life.” – Nate Sabourin



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