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Rayleigh isotope distillation module – development and transferability in geoscience education

The Watershed Hydrology lab will be out in force for the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Vancouver in October. Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing the abstracts of the work we are presenting there.

RAYLEIGH ISOTOPE DISTILLATION MODULE – DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSFERABILITY IN GEOSCIENCE EDUCATION

GRIFFITH, Elizabeth M., Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Texas at Arlington, 500 Yates St, Arlington, TX TX 76019, lgriff@uta.edu, ORTIZ, Joseph D., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44242, JEFFERSON, Anne J., Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44240, DEES, David, Faculty Professional Development Center and School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration, Kent State University, 231 Moulton Hall, Kent, OH 44242, and MERCHANT, William, Department of Evaluation and Measurement, Kent State University, 111L Nixon Hall, Kent, OH 44242
Rayleigh distillation is an important concept in geochemistry – applied to isotopic and elemental systems ranging from crystallization in magma chambers to oxygen isotope stratigraphy across glacial-interglacial periods. A teaching module that allows students to discover first-hand consequences of isotopic fractionation and Rayleigh distillation was developed, peer-reviewed, modified and used in thre upper-division geoscience courses: Sedimentology/Stratrigraphy, Environmental Geochemistry and Paleoceanography. In the module “Rayleigh isotope effect in the oceans: building glaciers” students perform (or are given data from) a simple batch distillation experiment that they model using open system Rayleigh isotopic fractionation. Insight on isotopic fractionation during phase transitions and a fundamental understanding of oxygen isotope stratigraphy is learned first-hand by the students preforming simple experiments and analyzing the data on sophisticated equipment. The teaching module is adaptable for the geoscience curriculum, including upper division courses and introductory courses. The module has only been tested in three upper division courses, but future work adapting and implementing the activity in an Introduction to Oceanography lab is planned.
Funding by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education allowed us to study the impact on student learning and motivation from teaching the material within the module using different pedagogical approaches including a paper-based data analysis activity and hands-on data collection with and without access to the water isotope analyzer. Assessment techniques were developed and implemented through the close collaboration with a faculty expert within the educational field. The 3-year project is in its second year and initial quantitative results and reflections from the faculty and students will be presented. Both faculty noted a difference in the classroom dynamic with the students performing the experiments vs those completing the paper-based data analysis. Additional strategies will be highlighted for the transferability of the hands-on experiment to institutions and departments without access to the water isotope analyzer.

Hands-on experiences with stable isotopes in the geosciences curriculum

The Watershed Hydrology lab will be out in force for the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Vancouver in October. Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing the abstracts of the work we are presenting there.

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCES WITH STABLE ISOTOPES IN THE GEOSCIENCES CURRICULUM

JEFFERSON, Anne J.1, GRIFFITH, Elizabeth M.2, ORTIZ, Joseph D.1, DEES, David3, and MERCHANT, William4, (1) Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44242, ajeffer9@kent.edu, (2) Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Texas at Arlington, 500 Yates St., Arlington, TX 76019, Arlington, TX TX 76019, (3) Faculty Professional Development Center and School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration, Kent State University, 231 Moulton Hall, Kent, OH 44242, (4) Department of Evaluation and Measurement, Kent State University, 111L Nixon Hall, Kent, OH 44242

Over the past thirty years, environmental and geoscience research has increasingly utilized stable isotope ratios to understand problems as diverse as paleoclimates, magma genesis, and processes in the hydrosphere and critical zone. New laser-based technology for measuring isotope ratios has significantly reduced the cost of setting up and maintaining an isotope lab. The new technology is also easier to use with students than traditional isotope ratio mass spectrometers, so there is strong potential to introduce hands-on experiences into the geoscience curriculum.
This project, funded by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education, assessed the impact that different pedagogical approaches have on student learning of stable isotope concepts in upper-division geoscience courses (Watershed Hydrology; Sedimentology/Stratigraphy; Environmental Geochemistry). Groups of students were exposed to this content via (1) a lecture-only format; (2) a paper-based data analysis activity; and (3) hands-on data collection, sometimes including spectrometer analysis. Pre- and post-tests measured gains in content knowledge while approaches to learning and motivational questionnaires instruments were used to identify the effects of the classroom environment on learning approaches and motivation. Focus group interviews were also conducted to verify the quantitative data. Preliminary findings of this study, currently in year two of three, include: a) a common decrease in student motivation as the semester progresses, b) relatively minor changes in student approaches to learning regardless of pedagogical strategy, and c) students’ positive responses to professor passion.
Peer review of modules and activities has been used to ensure high quality content is being delivered. Close collaboration between geosciences and education faculty at all project stages has enabled deployment of robust measures of student learning, increased responsiveness of the research to developments in the classroom, and facilitated exploration of unexpected project results. In its final year, the project will focus on high-impact dissemination of developed curriculum and project results, through workshops and on-line repositories.

For my undergraduates: Graduate funding in watershed issues and GK-12 outreach at Central Washington University

For undergraduates thinking about graduate school, here’s a program that incorporates the classes and research of an MS program with the opportunity to work in K-12 classrooms and building your teaching and outreach skills and credentials. I know some of the faculty at Central Washington, and they would be great people to have as advisors.

As posted on the Gilbert Club list-serv:

Central Washington University is recruiting MS students for our GK-12 project – Yakima WATERS (Watershed Research to Enhance Research in Schools). MS graduate students in biology, chemistry, geology, and resource management work with local K-12 teachers and students to bring components of their research or related science into the public classroom. Participating graduate students are support by a WATERS fellowship in Year 1 and a regular TA or RA in Year 2. Research Themes include:
Water Quality and Chemistry

Geomorphology-Climate Change

Land and Water Use

Aquatic Ecology and Biodiversity

If you know of any prospective graduate students interested in watershed research and educational outreach, please pass the word along to them.

The webpage is http://www.cwu.edu/~waters/