The Outdoor Geology Classroom area, looking south. The circle to the left represents the Rock Cycle. The area with boulders represents the components of the Rock Cycle with representative example rocks. The immediate foreground represents Magma and Lava (with acid-stained concrete, and a boulder of basalt). See below for an image of the sign at the site that explains the entire display.
Buffalo State College's Outdoor Geology Classroom provides an immersive field-like experience where students and visitors learn about Earth processes using a purposely arranged combination of natural and construction materials to represent the components and processes of the Rock Cycle.
The display is a centerpiece of the newly renovated/constructed Science and Mathematics Complex. More importantly, it is a teaching tool used for introductory-level class meetings and other geology instruction, mostly through courses in the Earth Sciences and Science Education Department.
Otherwise, the display is guided by signage (and this website) so visitors can learn from it without formal instruction at all times of the day, every day of the week.
Thanks to funding for “science on display” as part of renovation/construction of the Science and Mathematics Complex, the Outdoor Geology Classroom and the associated displays around the southeastern corner of the building were completed in Summer 2020.
Geology is an “outdoor” science.
Earth materials, like rocks, lava, and sediment, are collectively the record of long-term Earth processes driven by the motion of tectonic plates.
At Buffalo State, geology field experiences over the last 50+ years come primarily from field trips.
To bridge gaps between the field and the laboratory, Buffalo State Earth Sciences faculty members have used the large number and variety of rocks on campus used for decorative stones and building materials sourced from across the United States.
A student project produced a map and explanation that serves as a campus “rock arboretum.” Although the rocks of the “rock arboretum” are representative of the processes by which they formed, a limit of their use is that they are not arranged in a natural way. Click here for an image of the Buffalo State College "rock arboretum" poster made by Megan Kinmartin (2006).
The solution: The Outdoor Geology Classroom. A process-oriented outdoor geology display based on the Rock Cycle provides that spatial (field-like) relationship between the materials used.
These pages are adapted from the paper "The Buffalo State College Campus Geology Display: An Outdoor Geology Classroom" (Solar, G.S., 2020, The Science Teacher Bulletin (STANYS), v.83, no.2, p. 74-86).
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