Summer 2018 Workshop Series for Elementary Teachers

Casting fossils, biostratigraphy, mineral tests and a field trip to the local rock quarry were among the activities that elementary and middle school educators took part in this summer at the ASU campus. The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at ASU in collaboration with Vulcan Materials Company and the Math and Science Education Center, hosted two full-day professional development workshops for teachers as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen science education in the Western North Carolina region and support local educators. The programs were geared towards 4th and 8th grade teachers and aimed to provide them with ideas and materials for teaching earth science learning objectives. Teachers came from ten different counties in North Carolina and some drove up to three hours to attend the workshops, which was very exciting for the GES outreach team. 


GES faculty member Dr. Andy Heckert addresses workshop participants during the tour of the Rock Garden

A pre-survey at the time of registration identified lack of ideas for hands-on activities, few resources, and poor background knowledge as the main reasons teachers were interested in the earth science professional development opportunities. Teachers wanted help with “lessons that would keep students engaged,” “being more confident in teaching rocks and minerals” and “any physical resources we could get.” One teacher put it this way: “I want to do a better job teaching Science this year.  I feel like we don't focus on it enough because we are so worried about EOG's. I would like to get ideas and resources to use in the classroom.”

The “Rockin’ NC” program was done in collaboration with Vulcan Materials Company, which has been a long term partner of the GES department for decades, donating most of the rock specimens in the outdoor laboratory and providing funding for a variety of programs.Denise Hallett (Manager of Government and Community Relations at Vulcan Materials Company) and James Bear (Manager of the Vulcan Boone quarry) worked with the GES Outreach Department to coordinate the program. The one day workshop was also supported by the Math and Science Education Center at ASU.


Watauga teachers Meagan Lancaster and Audrey Choplin at the Vulcan Quarry

Rockin’ NC participants spent the day in the geology facilities on campus attending interactive sessions and received stipends, t-shirts and classroom kits. The kits included teaching aids and samples of rocks and minerals, to help the teachers bring earth science to live in their classroom and get students excited about the rich geology in our state. The group also visited the Vulcan Materials Quarry in Boone to learn about it as a potential field trip destination for their classes.


Kathleen McKee-Braswell from Gamewell Middle School and Howard Weaver from Central Wilkes Middle School explore minerals in granite using Lego(R) bricks. 

The “Deep Time Toolbox for Elementary Educators” workshop focused on ways to bring the concept of geologic time and evidence for the history of the Earth into the classroom to increase student engagement and understanding. Participants received a classroom kit of materials and learned about different types of fossils, activities for demonstrating geologic time and rock dating, and how their own classroom materials such as fossil casts and 3D biostratigraphy manipulatives. Materials were differentiated for 4th and 8th grade levels and will be freely available online in the GES Outreach website ( The Deep Time Toolbox workshop was funded mainly through a grant awarded by the Paleontological Society and support from the Math and Science Education Center at ASU.


Patricia Maltba from Gamewell Middle School tries her hand at molding and casting fossils. 

We received very positive feedback from participants after the workshops including comments such as: "It was so informative, I learned a ton!" "This was just what I needed, wonderful resources and hands-on activities," "Awesome! Wouldn't change a thing!" and "Everything ROCKED!" We want to thank the teachers who took a day, or in some cases two, to explore with us ways of making science engaging for their students and to deepen their understanding of geological concepts. We look forward to continuing to support K12 educators with materials, PD and student programming!

Geology majors Annie Klyce, Brandon Yokeley and Emily Fedders were instrumental in preparing for the events and making sure they ran smoothly. They did a great job leading sessions and answering teachers’ questions. The GES Outreach team, led by Marta Toran and Dr. Andy Heckert, would also like to extend their gratitude to Hatchet Coffee Roasters and Insomnia Cookies for their donations and Ms. Lauri Miller, Anthony Love and Leah McManus for all their help with logistics.


Geology majors Annie Klyce and Brandon Yokeley at the workshop registration table. 

For information about upcoming workshops for educators or outreach programs ran by the ASU GES Department, go to:

Published: Aug 27, 2018 2:21pm