January 9, 2014 by Dr. G
This morning, I left one very cold Media, PA, to travel to one very warm Austin, TX. Bright and early tomorrow morning, I begin participating in the Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education at the University of Texas – Austin. Fewer than 150 geoscience educators applied and were selected to attend this summit, where we will begin addressing the following questions:
What should an undergraduate geoscience curriculum cover? What are best practices for student learning and use of technology in the geosciences? How can we best prepare our undergraduate students for future geoscience careers? What can we do to broaden the participation of both underrepresented minorities and 2-year colleges, and increase the number of qualified K-12 geoscience teachers?
These are complex questions that will be sure to generate some engaging discussion, and I’m curious to see how close we will get to coming up with answers and solution by Sunday. We are going to be hearing plenary speakers and breaking in to smaller working groups on focused topics (in looking at the list of people I’m teamed up with, my hunch is I’m with a technology-focused group – there are some heavy hitters in the Google Earth world on my list!).
I arrived at my hotel in the late afternoon (after a medical emergency occurred on my flight here – I’ve never been on a flight that had to be met with paramedics and a stretcher once we touched town). And I knew that I only had time to catch one of the sights in Austin, and that site was going to be the Texas State Capitol Building. I have visited Capitol Buildings in PA, CT, MD, CO, UT, DC, and even San Juan, PR. So I was excited to add Texas to my list of capitols.
The first thing you notice when you see the Capitol in the Austin city skyline is the red color of the building. The red comes from the Sunset Red Granite quarried from Granite Mountain. I was able to join up with a free tour that began in quite a spectacular rotunda, four stories in height. I learned some interesting Texas history, was able to stop in to the Governor’s reception room for visitors, and walked in to the chambers of the State Senate and House of Representatives (where they sit at desks over 100 years old!). There were many additional historic artifacts, from the doorknobs to the historic granite steps to the chambers that we were to told to be careful walking up and down.
Something that struck me while in the Senate chamber (a news story I know some of my students actively followed) was that I was looking right at the spot where, on June 25, 2013, State Senator Wendy Davis stood for her 11-hour filibuster in her sneakers to block legislation that would create new abortion regulations in Texas.
Such a fascinating day – not much geology – except, of course, the building stone geology! But time to get a good night sleep, as tomorrow is going to be one mentally exhausting day!