Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute



Summer Field Trips for Educators

A field trip participant at work in the field.August 25, 2006

The Heat From Within: Earthly Insights into Planetary Volcanism was this year’s annual field experience for elementary, middle and high school teachers from across the United States. Held in central Oregon from July 9–16, this intense science workshop provided firsthand field work experiences in volcanic terrain here on Earth as a jumping off point to the understanding of volcanos of the solar system.

LPI scientists Allan Treiman and Walter Kiefer and members of the LPI's Department of Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) served as instructors and guides for 30 science teachers from 21 states across the country, from Connecticut to Washington, from Michigan to Georgia.

Conducting science is very different from reading about science. By the close of the trip, the teachers have had a chance to roll up their sleeves and participate. They have a deeper understanding of the process of science — an understanding they can directly share with their students.

Dr. Stephanie Shipp
Manager, LPI E/PO Department

Most people learn best by actually doing things hands on. For geology, that means going out into the field, looking at the rocks, and examining the processes that shaped the landscape. Once the teachers have done this for a few days, the process becomes less abstract and they more readily understand how scientists interpret pictures of the planets, obtained by NASA's planetary probes.

Dr. Walter Kiefer
LPI Staff Scientist

The Importance of Field Experiences

Often, classroom teachers are faced with teaching science with little or no direct experience. The experiences of this annual field trip help educators develop a deeper understanding and excitement about science through first-hand experiences such as looking at rocks, collecting samples, making observations in field books, and sketching the geological sites visited.

While much of the week was spent outside exploring volcanic plains and fascinating geological features like Crater Lake, there was also a classroom component. The participants worked in small groups with the instructors to write up their field observations and interpretations, helping the participants reflect on what they learned and where they still have questions. It also allowed Treiman and Kiefer to determine where misconceptions may be occurring. Through interactive discussions during the workshop, Treiman and Kiefer presented the geology and geologic history of the field area and connections to planetary science. Hands-on activities, designed for classroom use and tied to the field observations, were performed by the participants. Activities, reports, and resources can be found at the field trip Web site.

To date, Treiman and Kiefer have led teachers across the volcanos of the Cascades, through the geysers of Yellowstone, back in time to the ancient floods of Glacial Lake Missoula in the Northwest, and into the mucky brine pools of western Nevada and Mono Lake in California. More information is available at the LPI’s E/PO’s website.

This field experience is made possible by supplemental E/PO funding to a research grant provided by NASA's Science Mission Directorate, supporting funds from the Lunar and Planetary Institute, a generous contribution from the Sandia National Laboratories, and the support for educator participation by several state Space Grants and school districts.

Education and Public Outreach

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Last updated January 30, 2008