Geology class takes field trip to rock formations


When OTC geology instructor Kathryn Shade saw the advantage of moving her classroom outside and off campus, she took jumped at the chance.



Shade recently took a group of her students to the Johnson’s Shut-Ins and Elephant Rock state parks in southeastern Missouri where they spent several days hiked several trails, observed rocks and discussed their formation and the rocks history.



Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is on the Black River and the river cascades in and around the igneous rocks worn smooth by the water. Elephant Rocks is made up of an outcropping of Precambrian granite boulders that resemble a train of pink circus elephants.



“The purpose of the trip was to introduce students to a part of Missouris geologic history and more specifically to allow them to observe evidence of the volcanic history of the St. Francios Mountains area in southwest Missouri,” Shade said.


“They climbed on, hiked over and observed plutonic igneous rocks (granite) at Elephant Rocks State Park and volcanic igneous rocks (primarily rhyolite) at Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park.”


Shade took other classes to the area last spring and this trip was as successful as the one last year.



“Students seemed to enjoy it and learn from it. They appeared to gain from the experience on multiple levels learning geology, appreciating the environment, getting some good exercise and fresh air, testing their camping skills, and earning some credit for class,” she said.


Andy Norton, a student from Springfield who made the trip, said it was good to see the real-world application of what he was learning in class.


“I love science. I’ve always been a daydreamer. I like studying science in the real world instead of in a book,” he said. “I had never seen volcanic material before and all the rocks on the river.


Norton, who wants to study astronomy, said coming to OTC for science classes has been good for him.


“That notion of ‘Start here, go anywhere’ that you hear a lot works for me,” he said.


Shade said she thinks the trip was a success.



“I think those that attended learned more deeply about Missouri geology than they would have sitting in class, and they can now take family and friends to some great state parks and feel comfortable about knowing the area and amenities,” she said.


“I’m pretty sure they will always remember what granite and rhyolite look like, and which rock formed by cooling slowly underground and which cooled quickly after being ejected from a volcano.”

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