Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beyond Tourism

For the last couple days, I have been trekking around the Badlands National Park with Don Duggan-Haas as a part of the ReaL Earth Inquiry Project. This is the second year that I have been lucky enough to be involved with this and have loved every minute of it. Not only do you get to hang out with amazing teachers, but we are creating what Don refers to as VFEs. This deserves its own post, so I will come back to that soon.

Today, we were at the Yellow Mounds and while I am over trying to figure out where the fault line actually ran, a tour bus pulled into the parking area. Out jumped a couple dozen people who on average walked about 15 steps away from the bus and took approximately 100 pictures of the "pretty rocks."

I watched them for a few minutes as they pivoted around, smiled, chatted and loaded back on the bus to travel on to their next stop. I couldn't help but think about how different our experiences were at this exact same place.

Yes, the Yellow Mound are gorgeous and deserve to be front and center in a landscape photo. But what really gets me is that so few people are truly concerned with WHY they are so gorgeous. How did they get there? For goodness sake, why are they yellow?

I thought about that for awhile and how I honestly cannot drive by a formation in any location any more without trying to figure out what it is and how it formed. While my family is usually pretty game, at some point I have to roll the window down and snap a picture on the go because they get annoyed when we have to stop more than five times on a trip to pick up rocks. I tried to think back to a time when I just looked at the rocks (or looked past the rocks) without trying to decode the history. And I couldn't.

This is my hope for my kids. When they take my geology class (or astronomy, meteorology, whatever) I hope they begin to appreciate how beautiful a world we live in and that there is so much we don't know about it.

I have had a couple instances where kids have apparently against their will really got into the actual learning. And I cannot tell you how that makes my heart sing.

Jesse came into my astronomy class one day and threw his books down and said, "Mrs. Schroeder, I hate this class." I was extremely confused by this because he seemed like he was really enjoying it. He said he was driving home with his family last night and started pointing out stars and constellations. "You have me talking to my mother and I don't like it."

This spring I overhead the baseball coach talking about kids in the outfield looking like they were staring at the sky during practice. I smiled the rest of the day when I realized they were in my meteorology class and were trying to figure out what types of clouds were out that day.

So it is possible. There is the chance that what I am doing is reaching through and sticking with some. Not as many as I would like, but I suppose I can start small.

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