Learning on Location: T-Birds Flock to Death Valley

Published: April 04, 2011 | Read Time: 2 minutes

Within a day’s drive of more than 10 national and state parks, Southern Utah University has one spectacular backyard, just ask Assistant Professor of Geology Johnny MacLean and Assistant Professor of Physical Science Laura Cotts, who recently led 34 students through Death Valley National Park on a four-day learning experience unlike anything most of these students have ever seen before.

According to MacLean, the trip was just one in a series of excursions designed as a cornerstone of the geology department. This specific trip, according to MacLean, aimed “to help students observe and learn about one of the most geologically diverse and well-exposed regions of the country.”

Above all, Cotts adds, this extended field trip, of sorts, gives SUU’s science students an edge in better understanding the concepts they have been discussing in the classroom.

MacLean adds, “these memorable opportunities have a much bigger impact on students than ordinary lectures.”
Student participants agree.

Senior geology student Roger Leavitt feels “trips like this allow me to put into context the topics and concepts learned in the classroom. They also give us students opportunities to learn from one another in a relaxed and open atmosphere.”

Stephanie Child, also a senior geology major, said the opportunities she has enjoyed at SUU to travel with her professors to different locations really does make SUU unique and has helped her performance in the classroom.

The Death Valley trip was neither the first trip nor the last for SUU’s Geology Department. The College of Science hosts several excursions every semester, and though they are tailored for those students studying the physical sciences, MacLean says student participants are not required to be geology majors or even enrolled in a geology class.

Those non-science students who attend one of the geology trips may receive elective credit for their long weekend adventure. Though, according to several of the students who recently returned from Death Valley, the experience is well worth it all on its own.

Students interested in joining in one of the geology department’s future trips may contact Johnny MacLean within the College of Science, 435-586-1937.

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