Monday 19 April 2010

Impromptu Geology Lesson

As feared, a number of lecturers are stranded overseas at the moment. This, coupled with the college's network being down for most of the day due to building work, has meant a lot of babysitting of classes for me, coupled with very little in the way of resources other than a whiteboard and pen.

Which is a perfect opportunity to teach the kids about volcanoes, plate tectonics and global climate. Today, with my GCSE and BTEC classes, we covered:
  • tectonic plates
  • the mid-ocean ridges
  • other types of plate boundaries
  • why Iceland exists
  • what the jet stream is
  • how a jet engine works
What we didn't cover was how to a) spell and b) pronounce Eyjafjallajökull. Callan from Mountain Beltway linked to an awesome photo of the eruption:

It's incredibly exciting from an educational point of view to be able to show students geology in action. They understand why aeroplanes needed to be grounded, and by the end of the BTEC class one of my darlings said "Miss, I want to study geology" (although he may have been saying that so I didn't mark him as being 5 minutes late for class).

Incidentally, while classes have proceeded mostly as normal, at Birkbeck, one of the classes cancelled this week is - you've guessed it - "Volcanism Of The Solar System"...


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for not saying continental drift! That is my geological pet peeve. Continental drift has no mechanism and therefore does not exist. I grind my teeth whenever I hear someone say it instead of the proper plate tectonics.

    End of rant. ;)

  2. Well done, Julia, for taking the opportunity. Out of interest, how is geology actually treated in the National Curriculum these days? When I were a lad, I seem to remember there was a bit of plate tectonics squeezed into the Chemistry syllabus, of all things, but that was about it.

    Patty R - without wanting to derail the thread, continental drift is a bit of a woolly phrase with some sci-historical baggage, but it certainly exists - it is a consequence of plate tectonics!

  3. Very little in the national curriculum to be honest. There's a tiny bit on fossils (half a page in the textbook) in GCSE biology, something on fossil fuels in chemistry and a bit of planetary science in physics. There's more on geology in AS Environmental Studies, but bollocks all in BTEC National Diploma. I have seen a new BTEC syllabus with an elective geology and soil science module, and I'm determined to get to teach that.

  4. Can't you do a GCSE in Geology?

    I did an O'Level in Geology in the 80's.

    I never understood why they classified Geology as a humanities subject along with history and geography. Shouln't conplain as it let me get away with effectively 4 O'Levels in science subjects.


  5. Sorry CJR, but you're wrong. Continental drift was proposed in something like 1916 by Wegener and he thought that the continents drifted randomly around and bumped off of one another kind of like plates in a sink full of water. This is incorrect. The theory of plate tectonics shows that the plates move in a non-random fashion due to convection currents within the mantle. Therefore, saying 'continental drift' is like calling the dinosaurs lizards because that's how they look. Well, some of them anyway.
    Warned ya - it's my pet peeve. : )

    And now back to you Julia!!


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