Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mapping as a philosophy of life... or, you know, not.

Today, my sophomores began making their first maps. There's something kind of special about that first map. Maybe it's the way all those rocks first begin to fit together into a spatial context. Maybe it's the regression-to-childhood feel of all the coloring. Whatever it is, I like getting to experience it anew every year.

We started the project the usual way. I have the students look at some geologic maps, and we talk about the information conveyed on them, and about what a "contact" is, and about the importance of measuring the orientation of the beds. And then we go outside, to a gulch near campus, and hike up through the shale and sandstone and coal (Ron: we map the top of the Mancos Shale and part of the Mesa Verde Group), talking about how to tell the units apart, and how mappable units usually contain more than one rock type.

And then we climb a rather gnarly mountain-bike trail, and I find out which students run trail marathons in their spare time. And we get beautiful views at the top. (And, as usual, I don't take pictures because I forgot my camera. But, yes, it did snow a little this weekend, above 10,000 feet or so.)

And then we get to the map area. I talk them through orienting the map, and then they have to locate themselves. There's a perfect point to sight towards - I don't allow GPS units on this first project, because it's always good to have an alternative to technology for when the batteries run out - and the students pull out their compasses and their protractors and get to work.

Today I was feeling a bit punchy, though. So when they had measured their bearings and drawn their lines, I said:

If you want to make a map, first you have to find yourself.

And then I though: see, every college student needs to take geology. Not because they need to understand earthquakes and volcanoes and floods and landslides and groundwater and coastal erosion and the sources of all those resources they use every time they go skiing.

No. Because geology teaches them to find themselves.

Perhaps this is why geologists are so down to earth.

1 comment:

Ron Schott said...

Aaaahhh Man-cos!

Actually I don't know if you're aware of it, Kim, but FHSU's geology summer field camp spends about a week each year in Durango, with mapping/stratigraphy projects just south of town (just upsection of the Mancos, partially within the Mesa Verde group) as well as a final mapping project up at Lime Creek. So if you're looking for (summer) photos of students on your rocks, I might be able to help!