Friday, March 22, 2013

SUU Geology trip through Labyrinth Canyon

During Spring Break, the Geology Club partnered with the Harry Reid Outdoor Engagement Center to take 12 students on an educational field trip to the San Rafael Swell area.
Every semester, two field trips are scheduled as a part of the class, Selected Field Trips, an upper division geology course.
SUU geology club in Labyrinth Canyon

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This semester’s trip, which lasted five days, was spent mostly river rafting down Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River and to give the geology students real world experience to relate to their classroom learning.
Assistant Geology professor Johnny MacLean took 10 of his Selected Field Trips students and two outdoor recreation majors to the San Rafael Swell, where they camped for one night. From there, they got on rafts to head down the Green River.
Trevin Johnson, a senior double major in outdoor recreation in parks and tourism and geology from Fredonia, Ariz., helped organize the trip for his senior project.
“It was fun because I just recently decided to become a dual major, and it was great to get out in the field with my professor and be able to ask questions,” Johnson said. “I have liked geology for a long time, and I’ve had a basic understanding, but it was cool to get more technical.”
Johnson said he was able to get rafts, boats and gear donated to the Geology Club for the trip, but at the last minute, one of the rafts ended up with a large hole.
Luckily for the group, MacLean was able to come up with an interesting solution.
Blake Miller, a friend of MacLean’s, was forced to abandon his gear along the river bank in January. Miller was traveling solo on a 28 day trip to Lake Powell when the river froze over and he was evacuated by helicopter.
Fortunately for all parties, the boat and gear were still on the river when the group came by. The club members, guided by Johnson, rescued the boat and used it for the rest of the trip.
“It added a little adventure and excitement to the trip,” Johnson said.
With the donations from the SUU Outdoor Recreation Center, Maclean said he was able to get the cost of the trip down to $200 per student.
“Commercially, a trip like that would easily cost over $1,000,” MacLean said. “To be able to get class credit, plus that kind of experience, is an amazing deal at that price.”
Jeff Chipman, a junior geology major from St. George, has been on three geology field trips and said this was his favorite.
“It was my first time on the river, and I loved it,” he said. “I had the best time of my life.”
Chipman said before they got in the river, the students all gave presentations of projects they had been preparing all semester. The presentations related to some aspect of the San Rafael Swell area, and they all tied together to provide a picture of how the area formed.
“This trip helped me understand what I learned in class,” Chipman said. “To me, that’s huge because you can actually see the geology and picture what happened to form the rocks.”
Maclean said the field trips are invaluable and not only teach students about geology; they bring students closer together.
“In my mind there is nothing better for the students than to apply their classroom lessons to the field and then apply their field learning to the classroom,” he said. “It brings the education together.”
Geology majors are required to get at least two credits in the Selected Field Trips class, and each trip offers 1.5 credits, meaning students have to go on at least two field trips.
“I see these field trips as the cornerstone of the geology program,” MacLean said. “We encourage the students to go on as many as they can.”
MacLean said he will be giving a presentation about the Green River field trip on April 9 during the Festival of Excellence, where he will explain why experiential learning is beneficial to the classroom.

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