The online geology lab for community college students was developed by Dr. Rondi Davies, a faculty member at Queensborough Community College, City University New York, during two years of forced online synchronous learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This open educational resource collects many of Dr. Davies’ favorite open-access materials and supplements them with her own work within a single, cohesive laboratory manual intended for two-year, non-major college students from the New York area.
Dr. Davies wanted to develop labs that were fun, engaging, and that excited students about the subject, were relevant to their lives, helped them to grow as scientists, and even opened their minds to the possibility of a career in STEM and the geosciences. Strategies adopted to achieve these goals include collecting and interpreting data to simulate the scientific process and develop student confidence and self-efficacy, sketching, role-playing as a scientist, and reasoning by analogy to help students feel appreciated and valued.
To enhance relevance and meaning-making, the labs are grounded in the geologic history of New York. Each lab is structured to meet students at their level of knowledge and build on what they know. They follow a 5E instructional approach (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate; Bybee et al., 2006), which is based in educational theory about how students learn and fosters conceptual change. The labs also use anchoring phenomena and modeling to engage students and show their learning.
Each of the twelve labs was designed to be covered in a three-hour class within a 15-week semester. The introductory lab is about observation and interpretation and how the process of science is much like solving a mystery. Mineral resources, plate tectonics, and igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks provide much of the foundational material. This is followed by more exploratory labs on earthquakes, the glacial and geological history of New York, and climate change. The final lab, an in-person or online field trip guide to the Hall of Planet Earth at the American Museum of Natural History, draws on all the topics covered in previous labs.
Each lab is accompanied by a Teacher’s Guide and an online answer sheet (formatted for the Blackboard learning management system). A multiple-choice format is used for many questions, making the labs easy to grade.
The materials were developed, tested, and refined over two years of synchronous remote learning between 2019 and 2021. Although developed for online learning, they can easily be utilized for in-person classes.
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