Teaching in the Field

My goal as a geoscience educator is to nurture a sense of the Earth in young natural scientists by regularly bringing them out into the field. The field environment is the only educational setting where students witness first-hand the complexity and immensity of natural processes, while simultaneously facing core human uncertainty regarding wilderness and the unknown. As a result, there is no substitute for educational experiences in the field, which uniquely meld science and humanity to provide the type of holistic integration needed to approach the most vexing issues facing our society. This is especially true for the earth sciences, where the goal is to reawaken the intimate primordial connection that all human beings have with their home planet. Yet because few have maintained the basic curiosity and inquisitiveness they had as children, many adults often no longer seek to understand their own personal existence in the context of the historical evolution and modern-day composition of the Earth. The future of cross-disciplinary science demands that we train students to address the complex global environmental issues facing our society. An essential means to attain this goal is to ensure that at least some portion of their scientific education takes place in natural environmental settings. Field-based education gives students the experience of observing, documenting and tracking natural processes, which develops their capacity for scientific inquiry while simultaneously fully engaging their senses and emotional intellect to develop a deeply personal sense of the Earth. Provided with these perspectives, future natural scientists will be delighted, surprised, informed and ultimately educated by the environment itself each and every time that they step into a new natural surrounding.

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