My final teaching job for The Open University was to help deliver the “Sedimentary Rocks & Fossils in the Field” section of the Level 2 Practical Science module (SXG288) offered by the Science Faculty. I have been involved in all three presentations of this section of the SXG288 module, which will now cease to be offered, and a number of other Earth and environmental science residential schools over the last 9 years.
Having the opportunity to engage directly with students and enthuse them face-to-face about the subject I specialise in is a privilege I have gained a lot from. Furthermore, my over-riding impression from the students I have taught is that they feel they benefit greatly from the opportunity to explore first hand the concepts and subjects which they have previously studied in books and online. Based on my experiences on “Sedimentary Rocks and Fossils”, and other modules as both a tutor and a student, I am convinced that to effectively teach geological, geographical, environmental and ecological subjects effectively an element of field-based teaching is required.
Face-to-face teaching of practical skills in field geology is one of the most interesting and rewarding aspects of being a lecturer at The Open University. Over the last few days I have been lucky enough to participate in the running of the Sedimentary Rocks & Fossils in the Field topic within our second level Practical Science module (SXG288). This is one of two opportunities that students taking this module get to head into field, examine rocks, develop observational skills and test scientifc hypotheses; the other field based topic is Igneous & Metamorphic Rocks in theField.
Sedimentary Rocks & Fossils is based from Longridge Towers School in Northumberland (whilst the regular students are away). Longridge provides the ideal base for this topic because of its close proximity to some world class sedimentary rock and fossil exposures. Over an intensive three day field experience students examine sedimentary deposits from the Silurian and Carboniferous exposed mainly along the Northumberland coast; however, this is not a simple guide to the geology of the region. The topic is founded on the principle of problem based learning and at each field location students are expected to make observations, record them accurately and interpret the past environment. Findings are consolidated and dicussed during evening lab sessions.
On the rocks at Scremerston
This year we were delighted to welcome >40 students, some of who flew in from abroad, to study this topic over two sessions. Given the positive feeback recieved so far I think all enjoyed the topic and gained important geological field skills (for evidence of this also see photos below). I wish them all luck in their future studies and hope that they continue to be interested in Earth Science and progress towards our Natural Science degree qualification.
For further photos see below, follow #SXG288 on twitter, or visit the SXG288 Facebook page.
Rachel Gill and Encarni Montoya with sediment cores from Jamaica.
Quick and belated update on activity in March! Not sure where the time is going at the moment…
Early in the month we were delighted to welcome Prof. Jonathan Holmes and Rachel Gill from UCL who came to use our core splitter to open new sediment cores from Wally Wash Pond in Jamaica! A visit from Steve Brooks (Natural History Museum) early in the month to discuss midgy progress with Frazer was great. We are getting ever closer to developing a training data set… Also popping by was ex-PhD student and now Aberystwyth lecturer Joe Williams who we will hopefully be developing some new collaborations with over the summer and fingers crossed mounting an expedition back to Bolivia!
PCRG members taking part in the Milton Keynes NSPCC Half Marathon, 8 July (left to right: Charlotte Miller, Wesley Fraser and William Gosling)
I have been really excited with the increase in the number of posts and various contributions to this blog over the last month or so. So thanks to everyone who has contributed. The excellent content allows me to focus on just a few research and teaching events which have not been previously covered.
1) Welcome to Wesley Fraser who has joined us officilally as a visiting postdoc for a few months. We hope to develop a paper and another grant submission looking at pollen/spore chemistry during this time; for further details see “Do plants wear sunblock” post.
2) Well done to Frazer and Hayley for performing well in their end of year 1 mini-vivas. Both projects are progressing well and we are all looking forward to field work at the end of the month. Hopefully most of the prepartation and equipment are now in place…
3) Potential for more exiting collaborations was also developed at two meetings. The first, at the Natural History Museum and, in conjunction with long term collaborator Steve Brooks was with old friends Mick Frogley (Sussex) and Alex Chepstow-Lusty. Both Mick and Alex taught me when I was at Cambridge and it would be super exiting to develop a new collaboration with them looking at Chironomids in Andean lakes. The second was at the Univesity of Nottingham as I took part in a UK Tropical Peatlands meeting which brought together ecologists and palaeoecologists from Nottingham, Leeds, Leicester and The OU. The aim of the meeting was to coordinate papers and grant applications.
4) At the end of July beginning of August I taught on the “Sedimentary Rocks and Fossils in the field” topic for the new Practical Science, Earth & Environment (SXG288) module which The OU now offers. Longridge Towers School (no children around this time of year) provided the perfect base for investigating the sedimentary geology of the region. The small group of students had the opportunity to make field observations and test hypotheses related to past environmental change. Everyone was very excited to find numerous fossils and interesting sedimentary structres and had fun trying to work out what they all meant! Congratulations to Angela Coe for putting together this great event.
I have been engaged with two major activities during June: 1) submission of a research proposal to NERC, and 2) excitement of my first online teaching module going live to students, Cyprus activity, within Practical science: Earth and environment module (SXG288). Other members of the group have been writing up methods chapters (Natalie), number crunching and submitting abstract to the International Paleolimnology Symposium (Lottie), and submitting first year probation reports (Hayley and Frazer).