Wednesday, June 9, 2021

How to get kids interested in Geology




Image Source: 1 - Pexels
 2- Pexels
 3 - Pexels

It is unfortunate that geology has such a dry reputation. We know that it’s more than just studying rocks and minerals. It’s about exploring the rich history of our planet’s formation and evolution, using the landscape as artifacts that have recorded the stories of every subtle tectonic shift, and each extinction event. Yes, there is work and fine diligence involved, but this is in the service of engaging with a fascinating subject.

However, it can often be difficult to get kids over that reputation and on the path to amazing discoveries. This is a shame because as a parent, you naturally want your child to be introduced to these kinds of ideas and activities that can ignite their imagination for years to come. For geologists, you want to share an educational experience that could intrigue students, and perhaps start them on their own road to studying the subject at university or just taking it up as a hobby. In either case, one of the primary hurdles is getting kids interested in geology in the first place.  

So how can you best go about doing this? How do you break through the stereotypes to give kids that spark of interest that can tempt them down the rabbit hole into the fascinating world of geology? Let’s take a closer look.

Go Multimedia

We can all agree that books are awesome, beautiful, essential items. However, you can’t just expect the wonders of geology to take hold of all kids by throwing an academic text at them. Remember that everybody engages in learning from a subjective perspective. Various educational theories explore the best ways to educate children, and many of them accept that effective learning can be dependent upon the student’s experiences, environment, and external influences. Connectivism, in particular, posits that children learn by forming strong connections to ideas, and this can be most effective when applied to things that excite them. Therefore, it can be important to take a multimedia approach that provides opportunities for kids to connect to geology in ways that are most relevant to them.

This could include:

     Documentaries

Introduce kids to documentaries about geology. But be sure to keep these viewings short. Utilize it as a way to get them intrigued or excited about a concept, and then follow it up with a more practical demonstration. Don’t just stick to films aimed at kids, though. The BBC’s Rise of the Continents (2013) series, for instance, is still an educational and entertaining look at how ancient geology connects to our modern lives without talking down to its audience.

     Hands-On Lessons

Often, geology is best explored through the physical evidence of its impact. Provide kids with physical examples of interesting geological phenomena — geodes, volcanic rock, fossils. Take them on field trips to caves to reach out and touch stalactites and stalagmites. If you can encourage them to have a hands-on experience of geology, you can spark their interest in how the world was formed and spur them to explore the subject further. Even better, if you can introduce them to geological features in their local areas such as waterfalls, mountains, and cave systems, they can form a more personal and relevant relationship with it.

Gamify Activities

Getting kids interested in geology can’t just be predicated on passing on information. They need to be able to engage with it in fun and active ways. Whether as a parent or educator, you should be feeding their curiosity rather than trying to wrangle them into a lesson. One of the best ways to do this is by providing activities that are framed as games.

Some activities to consider are:

     Geocaching

One of the most fun aspects of geology is the potential for exploration. Geocaching gives kids the opportunity to head out on an adventure, explore the geological landscape of the area, and participate in a form of a treasure hunt. GPS coordinates provide your kids with the general location of a hidden container, and they have to explore the area to find it and enter their name in the logbook. These spots are hidden all over the world, and you can set your kids the challenge of making observations about the geological elements they notice along the way, you can even set geocache location clues based on natural landmarks. EarthCaching, a subset of geocaching spearheaded by the Geological Society of America, is also growing in popularity, and the cache includes educational information about the local landscape. 

     Minecraft

Believe it or not, Minecraft can be a good tool to get kids more engaged with geology. There are elements of volcanic activity, mineral identification, and earth development that reflect real-life geological behavior. Educators can use this as a forum through which to discuss geosciences. Set challenges for kids in the game to set about mining a certain amount and type of minerals, or to create a realistic volcanic eruption and lava flow, then talk about how this is reflected in real life. It can also be helpful to show them examples of the raw materials they use in the game — obsidian, redstone, quartz — and discuss how they’re formed.

Inspire Them

Passion can be contagious. As such, one way that you can be effective in getting kids interested in geology is by introducing them to people who not just have a passion for it, but are also talented in communicating and sharing that passion. Thankfully, our digital age provides great opportunities to find science communicators on YouTube or social media — the Smithsonian museum has posted talks with their geologist Dr. Ben Andrews, and astrobiologist Tara Djokovic has produced a TED talk on her research into how ancient rock can hold clues about the origins of life on our planet. Explore streaming services and social media to find the professionals that can inspire your kids to discover more.

Conclusion

Geology is an important field and one that has some fascinating elements. Getting kids interested in geosciences is often about finding ways to immediately help them to forge connections, and demonstrate that they can have fun while exploring the theory. Keep in mind that there are multimedia tools at your disposal, and introduce them to people and ideas that can spark their curiosity.

Contributed by Indiana Lee: Indiana Lee is a  journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, environmental protection, social justice, and more. when she is not writing you can find her deep in the mountains with her two dogs. follow her work on contently, or reach her at indianaleewrites@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Geological Impact of Hemp Agriculture

               
                               Image Source: pixabay.com

Looking out over a field of crops, it can be hard to determine exactly what is growing if you don’t have prior experience. It could be a variety of different types of wheat, legumes, corn, or so on. It may come as somewhat of a surprise given decades of federal regulations, but the crop growing out in the field you’re gazing upon could also be hemp.

Hemp products have made a surprising entry into a marketplace they were once forbidden from. Loosening of federal regulations surrounding marijuana plants — particularly those parts and varieties that are not known for altering your mental state — has led to a boom in the market. Hemp has long been known as a highly versatile and useful material and could come to replace many of the alternatives in the market because it is cheaper and of similar quality.

Most surprising though are the potential positive impacts hemp growing could provide for the local ecology. Particularly geological features such as soils. The conversion in American agriculture back to hemp growth could play a profound role in preserving and building the health of soils across the country.  

Hemp Resurgence

Due to its association with marijuana, hemp has earned a bad rap in the past half-century. However, hemp played a significant historical role in the founding and building of the United States. The crop arrived in the U.S. with the first settlers in Jamestown, who used it to make all sorts of essential items including rope, sails, and clothing. Hemp was so important that farmers in the colonies were required by law to grow it as a part of their overall agricultural production.

 Hemp has long been known as a vastly useful product. In the early 1900s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published findings that hemp produced 4 times more paper per acre than trees and in the 1930s, Popular Mechanics determined hemp could be used in the production of over 25,000 different products. However, none of this stopped hemp from being listed alongside marijuana as a Schedule I drug in 1970.

Only in the past decade have regulations restricting the production of hemp been loosened to allow farmers to grow the plant. Only with the 2018 Farm Bill legislation did hemp become fully legal to grow in the U.S. Economists estimate that the industrial hemp market will reach nearly $36 billion by 2026 — a huge explosion in value and production.

Building Soils

Though the resurgence of the hemp market is interesting, there are many less visible benefits than the money. For instance, hemp can be a powerful means of conserving and building valuable agricultural soils. Soils are complicated and can take decades to form but they are quite easy to destroy, especially in arid or heavily utilized areas. 

 Hemp can be a wonderful rotational crop because, even though it is an annual, it puts down deep roots. Deep roots hold soils in place, preventing erosion, and break up soils which can allow for the planting of more sensitive crops in the following years. Beyond that, hemp produces an incredible amount of biomass, which can be turned back into the soil and used to increase nutrient value for the next round of plants.

Believe it or not, hemp can also be used to remediate damaged soils. The plant can typically grow in contaminated soils without any negative impacts. It can also be used as a means of reducing herbicide and pesticide usage because it is naturally resistant to most pests. This means that not only can damaged areas be put back into production over time, but fewer chemicals are leached into waterways, which would not only improve natural habitat but could increase the quality of drinking water.

Many Uses

As previously mentioned, hemp has all sorts of potential uses and stands to compete with or replace many materials that are currently used. Building construction is just one of many examples. Geological and materials considerations are significant in building projects, and hemp is entering the markets in more ways than one.

One of the most interesting ways hemp can be used in construction is through what is known as hempcrete. The material is only about 15% as dense as concrete and could float on water, yet it supports vertical loads such as wood stud framing well. Such material was used long before concrete and may even extend the life of wood structures because it allows the wood to ‘breathe’ a bit more.

Hemp also makes a great insulation material without many of the harmful side effects that some previous supermaterials such as asbestos have. While asbestos is extremely heat resistant, it causes myriad health problems. Hemp is also resistant to both heat and mold, which can protect a house or building even longer, and it heals health problems instead of causing them.

***

Hemp has had a long, significant history as an agricultural commodity in the United States. The redaction of laws that prevent growing the product has led to a boom in the market and thousands of updated ideas on how to use it in all sorts of industries. Aside from the great economic benefits, hemp has the potential to play a significant environmental role in building and rehabilitating the soils that all of us depend upon. 

Indiana Lee is a  journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, environmental protection, social justice, and more. When she is not writing you can find her deep in the mountains with her two dogs. Follow her work on Contently, or reach her at indianaleewrites@gmail.com