Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Teacher Workshops Using Geoantiquities: Case History of Modern Great Salt Lake and Pleistocene Lake Bonneville Shorelines, Utah

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Teacher Workshops Using Geoantiquities: Case History of Modern Great Salt Lake and Pleistocene Lake Bonneville Shorelines, Utah

Article excerpt


A teacher workshop uses the shorelines of Utah's Wasatch Front to teach concepts of shore processes and climate change, and incorporates the concept of geoantiquities in the teaching approach. Geoantiquities are precious archives of Earth systems history. Modern shorelines of Great Salt Lake and Pleistocene shorelines of Lake Bonneville record changes of climate and environment. Urban development can obscure or destroy important shoreline evidence. During the workshop of outdoor learning, teachers observe shoreline evidence, first at Antelope Island State Park and then in urban neighborhoods. Field experiences alternately expose teachers to obvious and subtle shoreline evidence; modern and Pleistocene shorelines; and pristine and urban shoreline exposures. Teachers tie concepts of shore processes and climate change to curricula they already teach. These include themes of change and constancy, and science concepts of the water cycle. Teachers summarize the past 35,000 year history of climate change at their school as content-based literacy projects.

The concept of geoantiquities influences the workshop by calling attention to the scientific, historical, and educational value of geologically young landforms, and illustrates how the present is a key to explaining the past.


A K-12 teacher workshop, Antelope Island: evidence of local and global climate change, incorporates the concept of geoantiquities to teach the scientific and historic value of shorelines as historians of climate change. Much as a cultural antiquity is a precious archive of cultural history, a geoantiquity is a landform, or near-surface deposit, that is a precious archive of Earth systems history (Chan 2003a, b). A companion paper (Chan and Godsey 2004, this volume) explains the concept of geoantiquities and briefly presents three examples of geoscience education including the Antelope Island teacher workshop of this paper. The workshop is run by Earth Science Education, a small, not-for-profit, educational organization whose mission is to teach teachers about earth science principles, outside, hands-on, using local geology.

The primary objective of the workshop is to enhance teacher understanding of geoscience principles of shore processes and climate change. The purpose of this paper is to share how the geoantiquities approach contributed to the workshop goals. This paper describes the teacher workshop, explains its use of shorelines to teach geoscience concepts of the science core curriculum, discusses measures of success, and discusses how the geoantiquities approach influenced the workshop.

This paper is not intended to defend the value of inservice teacher workshops. We recognize that extensive literature identifies many of their weaknesses and strengths (Joyce and Showers, 1988; Sparks and Loucks-Horsley, 1989; National Staff Development Council, 2004; and Kennedy, 1999). Kennedy (1999) classifies teacher inservice workshops by the "tacit model for how they expect their programs to eventually influence student achievement. The Antelope Island workshop educates teachers and does not prescribe how course content should be taught. The workshop presents an array of teaching techniques, provides diverse supporting materials, and gives practice and coaching so teachers become proficient and confident recognizing evidence of shorelines.


Utah's four, urban, Wasatch Front counties, at the foot of the Wasatch Range, are home to 1.7 million residents, over three-quarters of Utah's population (US Census, 2002). Nearly all residential neighborhoods along the Wasatch Front have views of Pleistocene shorelines of Lake Bonneville. Some neighborhoods have views of Great Salt Lake.

Great Salt Lake, the largest lake in the western United States, occupies the lowest portion of the Bonneville Basin, a large, closed, hydrologie basin that extends across northwestern Utah into adjacent portions of Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada (Figure 1). …

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