Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Combining a Historical Geology Project with a Campus Student Organization's Fundraising Efforts

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Combining a Historical Geology Project with a Campus Student Organization's Fundraising Efforts

Article excerpt


Combining a classroom, activity with the goals of a campus student organization can promote active learning for the enrolled students, the campus and local community. A service-learning project in a general education geoscience course encourages stronger student enthusiasm and a vested interest towards the success of the project. Undergraduate students enrolled in historical geology are required to present summaries of geologic time periods and fossil samples during the Change Thru Geologic Time project, a service-learning activity at Penn State University Delaware County. Attendees at the event are asked to donate change to a student organization's fundraising efforts for pediatric cancer patients, their families, and innovative pediatric cancer research. The success of this event demonstrates that a common historical geology class assignment requiring students to scale geologic time over a certain distance can be modified to serve as an educational showcase and a fundraiser for a campus student organization.

Keywords: Education - Undergraduate; Geochronology


The 4.6-billion years of Earth's history is a difficult concept for students to comprehend. Typical assignments relating to the geologic time scale include asking students to scale geologic time to something more familiar to them such as their age, the distance between two cities, even the length of a song. Students may create their own individual metaphor for geologic time, then scale events in earth's history to their own metaphor (Ritger and Cummins, 1991). Students may learn geologic time through an inquiry-based project in the field to reconstruct the regional geologic history (Thomas, 2001).

These assignments typically are written down for students, and students supply the instructor with a written response. However, with the visual nature of the field of geology and with students being stronger visual learners, an effective way to understand geologic time is through a visual representation. Students may be shown visual models to compare to the age of the Earth and significant geologic events, such as spacing the timescale to the length of a classroom, or by comparing the occurrence of events in geologic time to the length of clothesline held across the classroom (Richardson, 2000). Professors may use visual representations of the geologic time scale, such as a 500-sheet roll of toilet paper (Duex, 1991) to a yearly planning calendar (Everitt et al., 1996). By having students "map" the time scale, students can place Earth's past events in perspective.

This type of visual representation of the geologic time scale nas been developed one step further and assigned as a class project in conjunction with a fund-raising effort by a student organization on the Penn State Delaware County campus. Change Thru Geologic Time has students map the time scale and present summaries for various geologic periods and fossil samples to the campus and local community.


Penn State Delaware County (PSUDE) is located outside of Philadelphia and is part of the Commonwealth College in the Pennsylvania State University system. The campus is primarily a two-year campus, with students starting their general education requirements and initial major courses at this location before transferring up to the Penn State University Park campus or to another university. In Spring 2002, GEOSC 021, "Biodiversity and Earth History," was offered for the first time at PSUDE. The course has a lecture-based format with no accompanying laboratory session. To get students excited and to have them invest their time and energy into learning historical geology, co-author Guertin wanted to develop a class project that would motivate the students to not only learn but to educate and share with others their new knowledge. Guertin made contact with co-author Nguyen, the student president for the PSUDE chapter of THON, to collaborate and develop a service-learning project to showcase student geological knowledge and assist in THON's fundraising efforts. …

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