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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com