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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS WINTER 2008 NEWSLETTER

Greetings!

Reflecting back on the Denver GSA meeting, I found that the session on “The Cause of Global Warming-Are We Facing Global Catastrophe in the Coming Century?” was one of the most fascinating sessions that I attended.  As the discussion that followed the presentations turned into heated arguments loaded with political meaning, I found myself wondering whether I had a fair understanding of our current scientific knowledge on the subject.  I was particularly interested in this session, as I have been teaching global climate change for many years and the issue has become such a hot topic in the media.  I also find that it is greatly misunderstood, as everybody now has an opinion, in many cases not backed up by any scientific information.

As geoscience teachers, many of us have taught “global climate change” as either part of physical geography, environmental geology, environmental science, or another course.  When I teach this subject, my main goal is to help students differentiate between scientific data, interpretation of the data, and personal opinions about whether and/or what we should do about it.  This seemingly simple goal has been challenging at times, especially in view of preconceived ideas and faulty reasoning (i.e. using the evidence of climate change in the past to conclude that global warming cannot be human-induced).  In the end, I remind students that whether or not we agree that humans have been enhancing the greenhouse effect, and whether or not we agree we should curb our release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we should all be concerned about our dependence on fossil fuels for a variety of other reasons. 

As for my personal life, living in Tahoe at a 6000-foot elevation, global warming does not seem so bad, especially when I have to shovel snow on my front steps (or is climate change going to result in greater snow accumulation? J)

I hope that 2008 is finding you all in good health and good spirit.  I look forward to seeing or meeting many of you at our Spring Conference at Palomar College.  You can find all of the details about this conference at http://www.palomar.edu/earthscience/NAGT/flyer.htm

Best wishes to all,

Brigitte Dillet, President, Far Western Section

 

NAGTpres

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS SUMMER 2006 NEWSLETTER

Greetings to the members of the Far West Section!

I look at my computer screen and study a picture of Mt. St. Helens I took in 2001. The 1986 dome in the crater is some 900 feet high, and in 15 years, it has not changed much.

I flip to a picture I took two weeks ago. A huge new dome is there, growing at a rate of thousands of cubic feet per day. Hour by hour, it doesn’t change much, and day by day it looks no different, but it is getting bigger and bigger, and every few weeks, a flank collapses, causing an explosion, and sending ash plumes high into the atmosphere.

I think about geologic change. . .

I started teaching two wars ago, both of them in the Middle East, and both, despite all of the various justifications for fighting a war, on lands situated over hundreds of billions of barrels of petroleum. I think about the students who have sat in my classes, dozing over another recitation over the scarcity of resources, and going on with their lives, hardly giving a thought to where their gasoline is coming from.

The prices rise, bit by bit. It seems barely noticeable day by day, but a hurricane strikes, a bomb explodes somewhere, and suddenly the price for a gallon of gasoline shoots up. It seems not so long ago that $2.00 per gallon was “expensive”. Now people are relieved when the price dips below $3.00.

I think about economic change. . .

I love teaching about geology. I love it because I am fascinated by the beauty of crystals, the grandeur of earth history, the strangeness of the many animals that have lived on the earth, and I love understanding how a landscape came to be, whether from flowing water, grinding ice, or surging lava. For years, I have looked forward to teaching, just for the joy of opening new worlds to my students.

The stakes feel higher these days. We are running out of easy oil. As the price of energy continues to rise, we as a society will finally have to confront the choices that have to be made about our energy future. Who will be making those decisions?

The oil companies? The coal companies? The nuclear power plant owners? Who do you think will benefit from their choices? No, the decision lies with the members of our society, whether they want to participate or not. It is our role as teachers to convince, cajole, encourage, and inspire our students to care about the huge changes, and choices, which face our society. It’s not an easy job, but it is important.

The National Association of Geoscience Teachers is here to help. By bringing teachers together at conferences, and through our various publications, we share our successful ideas, and help solve our common problems. I encourage you to become more involved! Join us Sept. 30-Oct. 2 meeting at the beautiful campus of Columbia College in the Sierra Nevada foothills and learn about the fascinating geology of the region. Jeff Tolhurst and his team are putting together a great slate of field trips and events, and I am looking forward to participating.

I want to take a moment to thank Jeff Grover, Paul Bauer, and all of the volunteers at Cuesta College who put together a great meeting on the Central Coast last spring. What an incredible setting for a conference, in the forest overlooking th e shoreline!

I also want to acknowledge the efforts of the executive board of the Far West Section. The Fishers(Vic and Leona) have served as treasurer for many years, and Brigitte Dillet and Mark Boryta have done great jobs as first and second vice presidents, keeping notes of meetings and producing our newsletter. Paul Troop has been running publication sales, which is the source of the funds for our scholarships. Dick Smith has been very efficient at keeping the FWS section website current (check it out at http://nagt-fws.org/ ). Robert Norris, one of the founding members of the Far West Section, served as our de-facto archivist for many decades before recently passing the role to Mike Martin.

Are you interested in being more involved? There are many opportunities coming up! Contact me, or attend the executive board meeting at the Columbia conference for more information.

Best wishes!

Garry Hayes Soon to be Past-President Far West Section

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS WINTER 2006 NEWSLETTER

Greetings to the members of the Far West Section!

The massive steel airlock swung open, revealing a long dark passageway. We cautiously stepped into the darkness. The swift change from dry desert air into the damp interior of the cave came as a shock. The thermometer read 78 degrees, but it felt 15 degrees hotter. Sweat began to trickle down my back. It was an uncomfortable moment, but it quickly passed as I began to see the wonders that lay within. Due to the generosity of our colleagues in the Southwest Section, I was attending a special tour of Kartchner Caverns in the desert of southern Arizona near Tucson. It was a unique and strange experience.

The caverns were discovered in the 1970’s, but their existence was kept a highly-guarded secret, so that they would not suffer the kind of vandalism and damage that is the fate of so many other caverns throughout the world. Following intense negotiations, the Arizona state legislature approved the formation of a state park without exactly knowing what it was that they were protecting. The philosophy that guides the park is that the caverns should be maintained in as close to their pristine original condition as is possible, while allowing visitors to see the spectacular features inside. To accomplish this, airlocks were installed to maintain the near 100% humidity (difficult in the desert environment), and trails were constructed carefully to protect the incredibly delicate cave formations. It is quickly evident that apart from the constructed walkways, human feet have never touched most of the cave surfaces. In short, a visit to the cavern is not so much a spelunking expedition, but rather a museum tour.

I don’t want that to sound like a negative observation. Few of us will ever have the opportunity to see a more pristine cavern in our lives, and few in the world are as nicely decorated as Kartchner, with all manner of helectites, soda straws, shields, and other rarely seen and easily destroyed features. Wandering through the passageways, I could sense what it must been like to discover a new cavern, and in doing that, I had just mentally checked off another of the items on my own geologist’s life list.

The life list? Many of you may remember an excellent article in the April 1990 issue of Geotimes by Lisa Rossbacher about the places in the world that all geologists should try to see in their lifetimes. Though not explicitly stated, it was also an acknowledgement that our life experiences can have a powerful influence on our teaching success. I hate to say it, but I used to speak somewhat blandly in my classes about Hawaii and hot spot volcanism until I had the experience of standing in front of an advancing basalt flow near Pu’u ’O’o a few years ago. Today I get excited telling others of the experience. I found and held fossils of the Burgess Shale fauna, as related in my last note. My historical geology classes are being transformed as a result. But lately I have started to feel a sense of urgency. The years are rolling by and there are too many places on my list that I haven’t been to yet. Committee work and curriculum planning chews up a lot of the hours of our lives, and though these things are important in their own way, I’m left feeling afraid that we might be getting behind in what really counts in our own lives as teachers and scientists.

But what’s even more profound, and more important in the long run, is that we are the portals through which our students are going to start their own geological journeys. Even if we can’t always take them directly, we transport them to these unexplored places with our pictures, our words, and our enthusiasm. Their view of the geological world begins with your experience. Are you behind on your own life list? How are you going to catch up?

We can’t use a weekend to see Mt. Everest, or to visit the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, or the (rapidly disappearing) snows of Kilimanjaro, but a lot of significant items that could be included on a geologist’s list can be found right here in California, Nevada and Hawaii. And the meetings of the Far West Section of the NAGT are an inexpensive and convenient way to see some very wonderful geology.

Last fall, Mike Martin, Richard Goode and the geology department of Porterville College introduced us to the fascinating geology of Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and other parts of the southern Sierra Nevada and Central Valley. I got to dig up the largest barnacle fossil I’ve ever seen in my life in the Kettleman Hills.

In a few weeks (March 24-26), Cuesta College will offer trips to the central California coastline and Coast Ranges. Next fall ( 30-Oct. 1), we will have the opportunity to explore the Mother Lode and central Sierra Nevada, courtesy of Columbia College. Don’t miss out! Join us, and consider bringing a few of your students Let them see and experience what we do when we seek to fill out our own life lists.

Best wishes!

Garry Hayes President, Far West Section
Note: The spirit and concept of the Rossbacher article was designed into a web page by Terry Acomb while he was at the University of Cincinnati and can be accessed at http://www.uc.edu/geology/geologylist/. It’s well worth a visit.

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS SUMMER 2005 NEWSLETTER

Greetings!

I stepped over the pile of Grizzly droppings and continued up the trail, suddenly a bit more attentive to my surroundings. The clouds above were threatening to let loose with a downpour, and I was getting tired, having already walked 5 miles horizontally, and 2,500 feet vertically, to approach the glacially carved ridge high above. But none of these distractions mattered; nothing was going to disturb my mood. I was almost there, almost to the quarry where Charles Walcott discovered the Burgess Shale fossil assemblage back in 1909. It is hard to describe my feelings as I took those last few steps up to the rocks in the opening above.

No doubt many of you are familiar with the Burgess Shale fossil locality from your earth history and paleontology classes. It is one of the few places where the soft anatomy of creatures was preserved, giving us a unique picture of a moment in time some 515 million years ago, very soon after the “Cambrian explosion”. The usually common trilobites take a back seat to the strange and graceful creatures like Marrella, Opabina, Pikaia, Hallucigenia, and Anomalocaris. What a privilege to pick up and consider these small treasures from a time so different from our own.

I stood there on that high mountain ridge in the Canadian Rockies, thinking about my students back home in Modesto. How would they feel if they were here? I had to think that the earth and its history is so rich, and so stupendous, that not even the most cynical student could fail to be moved by the incredible diversity of life, and the long tectonic story that formed the earth we see today. If they could only just be there.

It is our job to bring the world to our students. We can’t always take them there in person, but we can make the earth alive to them in our classrooms and laboratories. We provide the tools for them, and through our guidance they develop the skills to find answers to their questions about the processes and history of the earth. It is our example that brings to light the scientific method of testing hypotheses and developing theories through careful investigation.

But we have a great many misconceptions to overcome. “Creation-science” and “intelligent design” are in the news again, as school boards in several parts of the country grapple with the politics of religious faith and public education. And many of our students have sincere concerns about what they have been told about geology and evolution and how it squares with their religious beliefs.

Nearly half the people in the United States believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Why? In many cases, people simply never gave any consideration to the question. They never got curious. It may be that no one has ever provided them with patient answers to their questions when they arose, or explained to them the difference between faith and the scientific method. In other cases, they have been indoctrinated, and see the argument over evolution and a young earth as a life-and-death issue of religious faith and belief.

When students or their parents ask questions about creation-science or intelligent design, it is important to know and understand their motivation. Are they trying to proselytize either you or your class? Or are they truly curious? It is frightening to many people when they think that their education system is challenging their faith, or that someone may seem to be attacking the basis for their religious beliefs.

No one ever asks such questions lightly, and it is certainly counter-productive to respond with an assault on religion. On the other hand, it is a great opportunity to begin a discussion about how we learn and study our world and solar system.

For better or worse, “intelligent design” is developing as a political issue. If you haven’t researched the controversies involved, I recommend contacting the National Center for Science Education at http://www.natcenscied.org/ for more information.

In other matters, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to Lynn Fielding, Joe Holliday, T. James Noyes, Chuck Herzig, and the many other volunteers at El Camino College who put together an excellent conference at Zzyzx last spring. It was a great opportunity to see the Mojave Scenic Preserve, and the conference organizers did a stellar job.

Our next conference is set for October 7-9 at Porterville College, with trips into Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and into the Coast Ranges at the Carrizo Plains and Parkfield. Watch for more information in the mail or on the NAGT-FWS website at http://nagt-fws.org/. I hope to see you there!

Best wishes,

Garry Hayes

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS WINTER 2005 NEWSLETTER

Welcome!

I want to greet all of our new members this year, and to encourage all of you to get involved in the activities of our section. We have a lot going on, and many ways to make your membership count.

We in the Far Western Section of the NAGT have the privilege of teaching in one of the world s greatest concentrations of geologic wonders. Within a few hours drive, we can visit deserts, mountains, shorelines, fault zones, active and potentially active volcanoes, geothermaJ fields, caverns, and much more. And yet it seems every semester we find students and community members who have hardly ever set foot outside their own hometowns, and who are unaware of the incredible place that they live in. How many times have we heard someone expressing surprise that their house was on a floodplain, or that they lived almost on top of an active fault zone, or that the slopes above their house were unstable?

We, the teachers of earth science and geology, have a profound duty. We interpret the processes and events that are happening in the earth, and try to understand what they mean to the society we live in. We have a mission to make it possible for our students to discover these wonderful, and sometimes frightening processes that lie outside the comfortable boundaries and prejudices of their everyday lives.

What part does the Far West Section of the NAGT play in this? We currently conduct two meetings each year in interesting corners of the three-state region, made possible by the efforts of the wonderful volunteers who sponsor these events. The meetings and their field trips are a wonderful medium in which to share ideas and teaching methods. We offer three scholarships each year to students at schools in our section. We offer an award honoring the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher of the year. We are part of a national organization that includes a print forum for current teaching research and discussions of issues in earth sciences (the Journal of Geoscience Education), and a structure for bringing national issues in the earth sciences to the attention of the greater society.

What more can we be doing? If you are a member of the Far West Section, but have never been to a meeting, or never nominated anyone for an award, I can only say join us! Come out to Zzyzx in Feb- ruary and enjoy the great program being put together by EI Camino College. What else can be done? How can we work together to make the organization relevant enough to draw in the many hundreds and thousands of other teachers in our three-state region? We will discuss these issues in several forums this year. Keep an eye on the Far West Section website at (http://nagt-fws.org/), and the website of the national organization (http://www.nagt.org/) for the latest developments.

We'll be looking for you in Zzyzx in February and in Porterville in the fall. And bring a friend!

"In a completely rational society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.“ Lee Iacocca

Best Wishes

Garry Hayes

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS SUMMER 2004 NEWSLETTER

Greetings!

The February meeting of the Far West Section was a great success, and many thanks are due to Ilene Cooper and Robert de Groot, and all of the people at the Southern California Earthquake Center and USC who played a part in the conduct of the meeting. They did a great job. They represented the best of what the membership of the Far West Section has to offer.

Our section is defined by the participation of our members. We are successful because of you. How have you been connected this year? What can you do to become even more involved in the section?

Attend a conference! The Far West Section is successful in large part because of the conferences that we hold twice a year. If you haven't been to a meeting yet, you are truly missing out! In the near future, you can have the opportunity to explore the Big Island of Hawaii, travel around the Mojave Desert around Zyzzx (you have to come to find out what that name means), and learn the geology of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and the Central California Coast Ranges. The conferences are a great way to meet your fellow members, and to keep up with the latest innovations in the teaching field.

Sponsor a conference: Our meetings are planned and organized by our members and their institutions. We have dates open, starting in the spring of 2007. Do you want a chance to show off your program? Do you want to reveal to us the marvelous geologic features of your region? Contact me, and I will show you how you can be a sponsor.

Get into the communications pipeline: Make sure your e-mail address is current. I have been sending occasional notes through e-mail regarding employment openings, scholarships, new books and publications, and other timely matters that can't be adequately covered by twice-a-year publications. If you have not been receiving these notes, please notify me at hayesg@yosemite.cc.ca.us.

Submit an article to the Journal of Geoscience Education: Don't just read it! Use it to let others know about your innovations in the classroom. The Journal of Geologic Education is the flagship publication of our association, and is a great forum for sharing your ideas.

Nominate an Outstanding Earth Scjence Teacher: Hundreds of great teachers in our region deserve recognition for their efforts in the teaching of the earth sciences. You know who they are, so please let us know, too. The nomination process is not difficult, information can be found at http:llnagt-fws.org/oestform.htm.

Nominate a student for an NAGT scholarship: The Far West Section offers three scholarships every year for deserving students. The national organization also offers several more. Information can be found at http:nagt-fws.org/scholarshipintro.htm or http://www.nagt.org/stout04.pdf.

Get involved with the Far West Section leadership: We have several talented teams who conduct the business of the section, including management, and selection of OEST and scholarship winners. We are presently putting together activities and publications to commemorate the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and we need help. Contact me to see how to get involved.

Build our membership: The success of our section can only be enhanced by building our membership in our last newsletter, there are thousands of teachers in our three-state region involved in the teaching of the earth science. They can benefit by being a part of our section. Take it upon yourself to let them know about us! There is a membership application in this newsletter, and usually in the JOE. Send it onto your colleagues who don't know who we are yet! Need more applications1 Get more from the FWS website at http:llnagt-fws.org/.

Get involved with the national organization: There are national issues in geoscience education that impact all of us. Become a counselor-at-large, get on a national planning committee, or be part of the publication team at JGE. See the website at http://www.nagt.org for more information.

I am looking forward to seeing you all in Hilo this August. Aloha!

Garry Hayes

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS WINTER 2004 NEWSLETTER

Greetings!

I want to start off by thanking Brigitte Dillet, Winnie Kortemeier, Forrest Hopson, and all of the other organizers and leaders of our recent FWS conference at Western Nevada Community College. They did a great job, and I have heard nothing but positive reviews from the attendees. I also want to recognize the great job that Dick Smith has been doing keeping up the Far West Section Website (http://nagt-fws.org/). If you haven't visited the site lately, check it out!

This past year I had the privilege of participating in a grant program designed to shore up the science background of our local elementary school teachers. I had a chance to reacquaint myself with the California State Standards in earth science for fourth to sixth grades, and to work for twelve weeks with a talented group of enthusiastic teachers. It was a learning experience for the teachers, but also very much for me.

California's standards are ambitious. By sixth grade, students are expected to master the basics of plate tectonics, the hydrologic cycle, the rock cycle, basic rock and mineral identification, and erosional processes. In some of my dark moments, I despair over whether some of my own college students will ever reach this level of mastery!

Unfortunately, few of these fine teachers could score even 50% on a pre-class earth science assessment test. The level of preparation of the average elementary school teacher falls far short of the state standards and the teachers I worked with felt uncomfortable even attempting to teach earth science. We worked hard together to develop tools and strategies, and I was optimistic at the change in attitude (and assessment scores!) that was evident by the end of the course. It is amazing what these teachers can accomplish when they are given the right tools. And what happens when enthusiastic teachers discover the joy of doing geology.

The experience got me to thinking about who we are: the Far West Section of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. We are just over 300 talented teachers and geologists scattered throughout California, Nevada, and Hawaii. At least 60 of us work in the Community College system, another 60 or so teach in the CSU and UC system of California, and an additional two dozen work in the University systems of the three states and in private colleges. A number works with the USGS, and state geologic surveys or in private businesses. A significant number of our members are retired, including at least one of our founding members from 50 years ago, Robert Norris. What a wonderful resource!

I also have to consider who we are not: there are millions of students in our state school systems being taught by tens of thousands of teachers. Many of these teachers are talented and enthusiastic, but lack the basic skills they need to bring geology alive in their students. There are relatively few of these teachers who call themselves members of the Far West Section. What can we do to bring more of them in?

We are the teachers of the teachers. All of us have something to offer in the mission of educating the people of our three states, and I would have to assume that each of us is aware of teachers in our area who could benefit from becoming involved in the activities of the Far West Section. We all have talented students who are thinking of becoming geology majors or teachers. We have a great line-up of future meetings, at USC in February, and in Hilo, Hawaii next August. Let's get those people involved! Tell them about the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, and tell them what being involved has done for you.

I am looking forward to seeing you all in February, and I especially look forward to meeting your colleagues and students !

Garry Hayes

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS SUMMER 2003 NEWSLETTER

Why did you become a teacher? Why did you go into geology and the earth sciences? And what caused you to become involved in the Far Western Section of NAGT? All of us have a unique story, and I hadn’t thought about mine for a few years, but that changed when I started to look at the trips being offered at our conference this March at Chaffey College. Twenty-seven years ago, I was a gawky teenager at Chaffey looking for a physical science class to meet the general education requirement. I somehow landed in a physical geology course.

I took a field trip with my class to the Mojave Desert. I explored lava tubes at Pisgah Crater, saw the San Andreas Fault for the first time, and began to think that I might want to follow geology as a career (a similar trip was offered at our Chaffey meeting in March). One semester later I hiked into the Grand Canyon with my instructor and seven other students. Six days later I hiked out, exhausted, but convinced that I wanted to be a geologist, and that I wanted to teach.

Many years later in 1996, I attended my first conference of the NAGT. The University of the Pacific sponsored a field trip into the Mother Lode of the Sierra Nevada with our current president Gene Pearson. For me, Far West Section conferences were an exciting discovery. Within a few years, I had experienced a wealth of adventures including a journey through a giant open-pit gold mine in Nevada, a trip on a research boat in San Pedro Bay, a walk through a gemstone mine in San Diego County, explorations along the San Andreas Fault in numerous places, and tours of some of the most spectacular geologic localities to be found in California and Nevada. I’ve met and traveled with fellow teachers, students, authors, and many other fascinating people. The adventures have been inexpensive, well organized, and well run by a wonderful group of hard-working volunteers at colleges all across Nevada, California, and Hawaii. Looking back on these great experiences, I’ve realized that I cannot think of a better way to build on the inspiration that brought me into the teaching business in the first place.

I want to take this opportunity to thank those who have made so much of this possible: Gene Pearson has done a wonderful job these past two years as our section president. Paul Bauer, Leslie Gordon, and Jeff Tolhurst have been serving as councilors-at-large at the national level. Larry Herber, Dee Trent, and Donald Zenger have served on the scholarship committee. Brigitte Dillet and Vic Fisher continue to serve on the management committee, and are being joined this year by Mark Boryta and Paul Troop. Many thanks also to Judy Ann Lowman and Marlin Dickey, and all those who made the Chaffey College meeting a great success.

I encourage you to attend our coming exciting conferences. And bring along a friend, a student, or a fellow teacher! These are great opportunities to keep your batteries charged, and to advance the cause of earth science teaching in our three-state region. The Far West Section is one of the biggest and most active divisions of the NAGT, but there is opportunity for lots more participation and growth. Thank you!

Garry Hayes

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS WINTER 2003 NEWSLETTER

As the semester ended and the crush of holiday events passed, I took the time to reflect back on 2002 and look forward to the events of 2003. Looking back on 2002, I want to again thank and congratulate Stephen Rowland, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Greg Wheeler, California State University Sacramento; and Walt Swain, United States Geological Survey in Sacramento for coordinating two outstanding FWS conferences. The universal accolades from attendees spoke eloquently to their dedication and hard work.

Occasionally the FWS recognizes one of its members for outstanding teaching and exceptional service to geoscience education. In 2002 Paul Bauer, Cuesta College, was recognized for his accomplishments in the classroom and his dedicated service to NAGT. Congratulations, Paul, on this richly deserved honor. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for the section!

Accolades also go to Howard Stensrud, long-time chair of the FWS OESTA committee. Howard has asked to be replaced and I am happy that Greg Wheeler and Wendy van Norden have agreed to serve with me on the OESTA committee. In addition, Mike Martin has agreed to replace retiring Larry Heber on the FWS Scholarship committee.

I have two challenges for you in 2003. The first is to make sure that the OESTA committee receives nominations this year. Last year we were the only section of NAGT not to have an awardee. If you don't have a nominee, please forward the nomination form to a local high school or middle school and encourage the school administrator to consider nominating a deserving K-12 geoscience teacher. The second challenge is to increase FWS membership. Let's make 2003 the year the FWS finally overtakes the Eastern section as the section with the most members! Ask a colleague who is not currently a member to join or renew his or her membership.

Finally as we look forward in 2003 we must be ever vigilant to our role as citizen leaders and continually monitor changes affecting K-12 education in our states. Most states have enacted K-12 standards that include significant geoscience concepts and content. But unless standardized assessment tests include questions concerning geoscience concepts and content, there can be no assurance that students will receive this essential component of their education. As assessment tests are being developed and implemented, FWS members need to make sure that geoscience concepts and content are covered on the tests. If you sense a problem in your state, let section members know. In California we discovered last year that when the geoscience community applies enough pressure we can get the attention of administrators and state boards.

Have a great 2003 and I look forward to seeing you in Southern California at the Spring Conference.

Gene Pearson

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS SUMMER 2002 NEWSLETTER

The FWS has always been one of the most active sections of NAGT. On reflection, I believe that one of the major reasons for our continued success is the large number of members in our section who are willing to step forward and provide their time and enthusiasm to energize all of us. Throughout our almost 50 year history, the FWS has never lacked for members willing to step forward and serve as officers. But there have also been numerous other individuals who have made and continue to make significant contributions.

One of those individuals is Larry Herber. Since the FWS began awarding scholarships for students, Larry has chaired the selection committee. This year's awardees are highlighted on page 5 of this newsletter. Larry has decided to retire from his roll as chair. I thank him for all his efforts on behalf of the students in our section.

Howard Stensrud has been our long-time chair of the OESTA selection committee. Unfortunately this year he has received no nominations for this award that recognizes excellence in K-12 earth science teaching. Even the almost inactive NAGT sections regularly present an award. The executive board has decided to extend the OESTA deadline to September 1. I ask you to make sure that the FWS has a 2002 Awardee.

Another individual who has made major contributions to the section is Dick Smith. For several years he has acted as section web master. This past year he encouraged us to obtain our own web address thus making it easier to remember where our site was located. I encourage you to visit "nagt-fws.org". Dick posts information on conferences, awards and other section news as soon as it is available. If you would like to receive emails concerning FWS or NAGT news please send Dick your email address.

This April, Steve Rowland and his colleagues and staff at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, introduced us to the geology in southern Nevada and adjacent California. Standing on the “Great Unconformity” and collecting trilobite fossils from the Bright Angel Shale were two of the conference highlights for me. Thank you Steve for all your time and effort. It was a great conference!! We are currently seeking hosts for the 2004, 2005 and 2006 conferences. Please contact one of the officers if you are interested in sharing the geology of your part of the section with your colleagues.

Finally, I would like to recognize Bob Christman, who is retiring this year as the Executive Director of NAGT. Although not a member of our section, Bob's help has been invaluable ~ facilitating membership lists and supporting newsletter and conference mailings. Bob, thank you for the many ways in which you have helped NAGT and the FWS!!

Best wishes for an enjoyable and rewarding summer whether it involves research, reading, recreation and/or just relaxation. I look forward to seeing you in Sacramento on September 20th!!

Gene Pearson

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS WINTER 2002 NEWSLETTER

Early this morning I watched the Leonid meteor shower in the skies over Stockton. Between displays, I wondered whether early humans would have been frightened or awed, as I was, by such an event. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of scientists and educators, each year more and more of the world's people gain a greater appreciation and understanding of their physical environment.

As geoscientists, educators and members of the FWS of NAGT, we play a major role in this discovery process by sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm for the geosciences with countless students of all ages and backgrounds. But it is not enough to just teach our students. Almost equal in importance is the activity of members to ensure that geoscience education maintains its critical place in K-12 science curricula. The recent decisions involving the importance of evolutionary theory in Kansas and the geosciences in Texas, remind us that we must remain vigilant.

Since the initial meetings in 1954, the FWS and geoscience education in the west has benefited from the efforts of many outstanding individuals who have given tirelessly of their time and expertise. One of those individuals was Dorothy "Dottie" Stout. For more than thirty years, Dottie championed the cause of earth science education. I will remember her boundless energy and enthusiasm on FWS field trips . . . but mostly I will remember her infectious laugh, the playful almost mischievous twinkle in her eyes and the grace and warmth with which she greeted everyone who crossed her path. In September, the FWS Board voted to name the FWS Field Camp Scholarship after Dottie. With the concurrence of her daughters, the scholarship will be named the Dottie Stout Scholarship. The FWS also made a contribution of $1000 to the NAGT Dorothy L. Stout Memorial Fund.

I attended the 2001 NAGT Council Meeting held in conjunction with GSA in Boston. The FWS remains one of the most active sections in the organization. Our membership of approximately 330 is second only to the Eastern Section in numbers and our financial stability is best of all the sections. I talked with Jennifer Thompson, president of the Pacific Northwest Section, and we agreed to share conference information. The next meeting of the PNS will be held May 13-15 of 2002 in conjunction with the GSA Cordilleran Section meeting in Corvallis, Oregon. The PNS is contemplating holding a future conference at Glacier Bay, Alaska.

Finally, a heart felt thank you to Leslie Gordon and Paul Stoffer at the USGS, and Deborah Harden at San José State University for orchestrating such an outstanding Fall Conference under such difficult circumstances. Our Spring 2002 Conference will be hosted in April by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and ably coordinated by Steve Rowland. FWS has visited northern and central Nevada and this will be an excellent opportunity to explore the geology of another part of our section. See you in Las Vegas!!!

Gene Pearson

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS SUMMER 2001 NEWSLETTER

Mike Martin deserves our thanks for all the fine work he did for the section during his term as president. Congratulations Mike on a job exceptionally well done! One reason that the Far Western Section is so successful is the number of members who are willing to step forward and provide leadership. During the decade of the 90s, Mike was the last in a sequence of outstanding presidents: Greg Wheeler ('91-93), Wendy Van Norden ('93-'95), Paul Bauer ('95-'97), Rick Lozinsky ('97-'99).

A special thank you also to Sian Davies-Vollum who coordinated the successful Spring Conference at Pomona College. Field trip leaders Rick Hazlett, Larry Herber, Don Lofgren, Jon Nourse, Dee Trent and speakers Ann Blythe and Ron Blom also deserve our thanks for their contributions. Who would have expected snow storms in the San Gabriel Mountains in late April?

Accolades to Wendy Van Norden! As a result of her efforts the College Board is now surveying geoscience teachers regarding the development of an Advanced Placement course and exam for Geology. The Board needs endorsement from about 600 teachers to proceed with implementation. The Board also needs to hear from college and university faculty regarding acceptable common standards. Please visit the College Board web site http://www.collegeboard.com/ap/ and indicate your support for an AP course in Geology.

Congratulations to OEST Award winner Tom Hollis from Atascadero High School. Our success as teachers can often be judged by the success of our students. I had the pleasure of having one of Tom's former students in my Geologic Evolution of the Earth class. Her knowledge of geology and enthusiasm for fieldwork was exceptional.

Thanks to Paul Bauer, Vic Fisher and Garry Hayes for their willingness to continue in their positions on the Executive Board and a hearty welcome to Brigitte Dillet our newly elected Second Vice President/Newsletter Editor. I have enjoyed serving as Newsletter Editor the past four years and look forward to serving as your President. I hope that I can measure up to the high standards set by my predecessors. See you in Menlo Park this September!

Gene Pearson

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NAGT-FWS WINTER 2001 NEWSLETTER

There have been some special moments for me this past year. As with many of you, I'm surrounded by geology all the time. Here in Riverside where I teach, every morning and every afternoon I see three mountain peaks, all over 10,000 feet: Mt. Baldy, Mt. San Gorgonio, and Mt. San Jacinto. There are even afternoons when I can see all the way to Palomar Mtn, and one afternoon I saw the glint of the dome of the telescope!

Then during this past summer I spent some time backpacking in Yosemite. When I was standing at Donohoe Pass looking at Lyell Glacier, it gave me chills. Pictures just don't do it justice.

In November I drove to Morro Bay to visit Paul Bauer, and there is a spine-tingling view of Morro Rock from his front yard. I hesitate mentioning this because now all of you are going to converge on him all at once, and he's going to yell at me. But the view of the rock was amazing, and I told him so. I then drove to Reno to attend the GSA Conference. Because of some obligations at my school, I had to leave Reno at 5 o'clock in the afternoon to drive back to Riverside, and it was dark the entire way. I drove down U.S. Highway 395, which has always been one of my favorites, as it is with many of you. But this particular night was different - there was a full moon. The moon shining on the Sierras gave it a glow that I will never forget.

There are many others, such as hearing Kerry Sieh in Northridge, taking pictures of the Christmas eclipse, and four-wheeling a canyon in the El Paso Mountains that I had never seen before. What were your special moments? Was there something that you saw or did that meant a lot to you? Maybe there is something valuable in reflecting on our memories. It's one thing to make memories, but it's another to share them and to think about what they mean to us. I had a great 2000, and I'm sure all of you did, too. Think about those special moments and share them with your peers. Share them with me, I'd love to hear them.

On a side note, one of the things that has always impressed me about our section is the willingness of so many people to help with things. Case in point: The section decided that we would sell guidebooks in Reno at GSA back in November, but all of the officers were involved in meetings. So in stepped Leona Fisher, wife of treasurer Vic Fisher, and handled the booth all by herself for 3 days and made over $500 for the section. We owe Leona a thank you and a big hug for helping us out! A special thank you also goes to Woody Brooks for all the work did to make the Fall Conference such a highly successful one.

May 2001 be a year filled with special moments. See you in Pomona!

Mike Martin   - FWS President   contact Mike

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS SUMMER 2000 NEWSLETTER

The season for standardized testing has just passed. The SAT 9, the STAR test, SAT, ACT, the Golden State Exam, the list goes on and on and on. It gets a little tiresome sometimes. I’m sure the students get tired of them, too. But we have to do it. As I sit and proctor all of these exams, one thing really jumps out at me. These tests have increased the number of earth science questions in recent years. Is that a bad thing? No way!

On the SAT 9, for example, there are 40 questions on the science part of the exam, and 13 of those questions deal with earth science. That’s one third of the test. The test I saw was the 10th grade version, but the 9th and 11th grade version is the same. This increase in earth science on the standardized tests is a wake-up call for those of us in the pre-college ranks.

Many school districts statewide are now discussing how to incorporate more earth science into their curriculum. A new program from AGI called EarthComm is one such way to include more geoscience into the classroom. This program will be in the printing stage this summer, and next spring Pomona College, who is hosting the FWS Spring Conference, will offer a Sunday morning workshop on the EarthComm curriculum. I have seen the materials, and it is an impressive program.

On the subject of tests, Wendy Van Norden at Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood is working on getting the College Board people to develop an AP Geology exam. If you haven’t heard from Wendy, contact her and put your name on the ever-growing list of teachers who are supporting this movement. Wendy has suggested that many students are not taking high school geology classes, even if they are offered, because the students would rather take an AP class. Perhaps it looks better on their transcripts. Wendy continues to say that if we want more students to pursue a career in the geosciences, they should be exposed to it in high school. If the class has an AP in front of it, many of the better students will be more apt to take it. If we all give Wendy our support, in the next few years an AP test in Geology could be a reality.

Finally, many thanks to Peter Weigand and the rest of the faculty, staff and students at California State University at Northridge for their efforts in making the Spring 2000 Conference a truly outstanding event. Have a great summer and I look forward to seeing all of you at the Feather River Inn in Blairsden, California for the Fall Conference hosted by Elwood Brooks and California State University Hayward.

Mike Martin

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President's Letter

NAGT-FWS WINTER 2000 NEWSLETTER

One hundred years ago, at the end of the last century, the San Andreas Fault had not yet been identified. Alfred Wegener was still a meteorologist in Germany. No one had ever gotten an X-ray in a doctor's office. No one could take aerial photos. There were no mid-ocean ridges in textbooks, there were no seismometers at Cal Tech.

What an amazing one hundred years. Computers, deep sea exploration, nuclear physics, and the plate tectonics revolution, just to name a few of the major advancements in science. Makes you wonder what will happen in the next one hundred years, doesn't it? There is so much left to study. So much left to learn. With technology advancing at mind-boggling rates, it is really exciting to think about what will happen in the next century.

But you know who it will be to discover all of the new science? Our students. By the year 2025, most of us (with some exceptions, of course) will not be teaching anymore, but our students will still be learning. What do you think they will find? Are you interested? 1 am. I am just as excited about their discoveries, which haven't been discovered yet, as 1 am about what already has been discovered. It is incredible to think about what our students will do.

But you know what it will take? Enthusiasm and energy. Ours. These students need us to show them how to be excited about geology, and about education. How excited are you about what you do? Do your students see this excitement') Do they see you as a lifelong learner, or as just a giver of information? Remember that students learn when they are interested, not when they "have to". Excitement, not necessity, is the mother of invention.

Before I close, let me say a collective thanks to all of the geologists in our section who have come before me and paved the way for myself and all of the other young geoscience educators in the area. To Norris, Hill, Dibblee, Cox, Taliaferro, Baldwin, Stout, Pipkin, Wheeler. Dalrymple, Sieh, Wallace, Press, Trent, Atwater, Bolt, Schwiekert, Wernicke, Troxel, Moores, Hilton, Biehler, and so many others I can't name them all, thank you. For everything you've done for geology in the 20th century·.

Mike Martin

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NAGT-FWS SUMMER 1999 NEWSLETTER

It sure is an exciting time to be a geoscience educator. I’ve never been this excited about teaching the geosciences. First, it’s May, which means summer is coming quickly. Summer means research opportunities for a lot of us, a time for going "outback" and honing our skills. It means planning for a new year, trying to include new ideas and methods into our existing departments, programs, and classes. Or it may simply mean working on our golf games.

It’s also exciting to be an educator because of the new emphasis on the geosciences in the K-12 system. Last fall the State of California passed its newest State Science Standards, and what an exciting document it is. Fully one-fourth of the content area addressed is Earth Science. High schools all over California are now putting Earth Science into their curriculum. Not only that, but the SAT 9, the standardized test taken by all high school students in the state, contains a separate science test. That test, which contains 40 questions, is one-third geoscience. If one-third of what the state is testing is geoscience, then schools should be, and will be, putting more earth science into their programs.

Does this mean that the colleges will be getting better prepared geoscience students? It may, but it depends on the program they come from. If we as K-12 teachers decide to really emphasize it, rather than just "go over" it, then we can prepare more geoscience students. Why don’t we make a goal that a certain number of our graduating seniors five, ten, twenty - are committed to the geosciences as a career?

Let’s use this momentum to our advantage. We can make a difference.


Mike Martin  - FWS President   contact Mike

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