CO – GSA125, Teaching Controversies Workshop

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October 26, 2013 by Dr. G

My first full day in Denver, Colorado, started with a simple tweet:

Today is a day of pre-conference workshops and fieldtrips before the official start of the Geological Society of America’s Annual Meeting. And this year’s meeting is celebrating the 125th anniversary of GSA – a special occasion, to be sure!  Many activities during the conference are centered around the theme of how the discipline has changed over the years, and the hashtag to following on social media is #GSA125.  GSA fully supports conference attendees tweeting and blogging their experiences – they even have a Twitter roll and blog roll set up so everyone can monitor the conference activities online.

My conference name badge, complete with a colorful lanyard.

My conference name badge, complete with a colorful lanyard.

But today was a full-day workshop for me.  I was a co-organizer and instructor for Teaching Controversial Issues I & II.  Designed for K-16 Earth Science educators, we split the workshop into two sessions, with the morning session examining climate change and energy, and the afternoon session exploring evolution of life and Earth.  Myself and six other presenters split the duties of presenting science content and strategies for teaching the content in the classroom.  We also had some very engaging discussions with our workshop participants on how to address such topics as growing energy demands, the linkages between dinosaurs and birds, and the importance of students understanding (or at least working towards and understanding of) geologic time.

I presented in the afternoon on the topics of de-extinction and rewilding.  Students that have taken the courses Evolution and Life (historical geology) and Dinosaurs Extinctions with me know that these are current and exciting topics I like to bring in to the classroom.  And with the huge media push earlier this year from the March 2013 TEDxDeExtinction event to the April 2013 National Geographic issue, there is much information online to pull from and to direct students towards.  Several people after the workshop thanked me for presenting on this topic, as they did not know much or was not even aware of the work being done on trying to bring extinct animals back from extinction – and yes, it has already happened.  It wasn’t a woolly mammoth that came back to life, but the Pyrenean ibex was cloned from frozen tissue.  Unfortunately, the animal did not live long after it was born, but this topic, of bringing extinct animals back to life is a very interdisciplinary topic that makes for a rich classroom discussion that goes beyond the science – it is not just “can we” bring extinct animals back to life, but “should we.”

Tomorrow begins the marathon days of attending oral presentations, poster sessions, and special functions and meetings.  What am I looking forward to the most?  – reconnecting with my geology friends and colleagues from across the country, and learning some new and interesting geology and approaches to teaching that geology to bring back to my classroom.  Watch out, students – good geology times lie ahead!

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