“I was going to cancel this year and wait until next year, but I have been doing this for so many years that I decided I could not stop,” said Rick Giardino, Professor, Texas A&M Geology and Geophysics Department, who created the program.
This year Aramco Americas provided the 1,000-page textbook, Geology of National Parks, 7th Edition, as well as lending a veteran geologist to offer insights.
Tim Diggs, geological consultant, Aramco Americas Upstream Department, served on the Advisory Committee to support curriculum development. Last year he was in the field with teachers. While “there is no substitute for being in the field,” the virtual G-Camp tries to duplicate the experience as much as possible, said Diggs.
Pioneering online geoscience learning
This year’s theme “The Geology of North America Through the National Park Experience,” featuring videos, daily, small group sessions with teachers and instructors, and homework assignments designed to support lesson plans for the coming school year. A dedicated web page hosts the curriculum materials and serves as a hub for all G-Camp resources.
With the uncertainty surrounding school openings and the teaching formats available, G-Camp has filled a need for teachers looking for supplemental resources for their science curriculum. Research shows that this is a critical time to generate student interest in science subjects. Aramco supports STEM initiatives around the world and G-Camp is one example.
The goal is to have teachers return to the classroom with new knowledge and excited about what they are teaching, and ultimately for “the kids to come to college saying,’ I want to enroll in geology,’” Giardino said.
Teachers were taught about U.S. landforms and geology through virtual visits to at least 18 national parks, an itinerary not possible with the past usual field trips travel itinerary.
The focus was to study distinct geological features such as glaciers, dunes, and seashores. Teachers traveled virtually to Glacier National Park, Montana; and White Sands National Park, New Mexico among others.
“It’s not the same as actually looking at the rocks in situ,” but it allows the group to learn and view landforms from all over the nation, said Diggs. Giardino emphasized the experience delivered a deep dive into geomorphology.
Those who completed the virtual camp will be invited to attend next year’s camp, which Giardino hopes will be back in the field. Because the virtual camp focused on the basics, these returning participants will have a richer, more advanced experience, he said.
For the first nine years G-Camp participation was limited to Texas, then opened to wider participation a few years ago. Giardino hopes eventually to make the camp international.
This year’s 31 participants come from 16 states across the U.S.: Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, Texas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Georgia, California, New York, Alabama, Oregon, Vermont, Nevada, New Jersey, Florida, South Dakota.
He admits they were “flying by the seat of their pants” this year. But the mission remains the same—get students interested and excited about geology.