Science Teachers Rock with Rocks—Literally!
From July 29-August 3, 2018, I had the opportunity, along with 22 other teachers from around the country, to get close up and personal with rocks on a once in a lifetime adventure thanks to the Smithsonian Institution and The Dow Chemical Company! Starting from the evening of July 29th, I knew that I was going to experience an educational journey that would expand my knowledge and curiosity. We started the week with a dinner and overview of what to expect during the week. After going over the agenda, I knew that I was glad that I brought good walking shoes. I tried to figure out how we were going to do so much in such a short amount of time.
Monday, Day 1
We started the day at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History before it opened, visiting the Geographic Time Line in the museum. We spent time learning a bit about Earth's History. How awesome to see the exhibits without maneuvering around the public. I loved seeing and reading about the fossils from the oceans, especially the trilobites. We continued our tour behind the scenes in the vaults that contained meteorites. AMAZING! I can't believe that I was able to hold a rock that was 4.6 billion years old. The collection contained pieces of Mars and the moon. Pieces of history that I never expected to see up close!
Tuesday, Day 2—FIELD TRIP DAY!
We, the teacher entourage, eagerly boarded a bus that was heading to USGS, the United States Geological Survey Center in Reston, VA. What a beautiful facility nestled in a picturesque wooded area. We investigated earthquakes and natural hazards. We created our own earthquake machine to demonstrate the size of earthquake tremors, we got to "act" like an earthquake wave, and we did an investigation on the changing shoreline and vegetation at the Jersey shore. We boarded the bus after exhausted but filled with educational resources and tons of ideas to use in the classroom. That evening, quite of few of us strolled around D.C. to see the Navy Band and Chorus perform. What a treat!
Wednesday, Day 3
Back to the National Museum of Natural History. We got the opportunity to be archeologists on a fossil dig! We sifted through rocks and fossils looking for ancient teeth fossils from sharks. The room would erupt with excitement when someone would find one and then identify it! How cool! And we got to keep what we found! Next, we had a video conference with Texas A&M. They shared with us their expedition to Antarctica to explore ice cores that showed earth warming as well why the dinosaurs became extinct. I love seeing the foraminifera. We also did an activity to help students understand the value and information that ice cores can provide us with. We topped the day off with an evening celebration at The District Chophouse and Brewery. We definitely took what we had learned thus far to the restaurant. We compared our desserts to the various meteorites that we viewed in the vault at the National Museum of Natural History! We had a great time relaxing and enjoying company with our new friends and colleagues.
Thursday, Day 4—Our second FIELD TRIP DAY—ACTUALLY DOUBLE FIELD TRIP DAY!
The group boarded the bus heading to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in Silver Spring, MD. WOW! The giant Science on a Sphere, an interactive model of earth, suspended from the ceiling. On this earth model, the meteorologists showed us current imagery from satellites of weather patterns on the planet. 110,000 terabytes of information is gathered by these satellites. Air and marine traffic, temperature, wind patterns, water currents, tsunamis, current clouds, dust blowing off the Sahara Desert, and even a projection of the lost Malaysian flight is monitored by NOAA satellites. Unbelievable what we saw on the Sphere. I want one! Meteorologist Tom was not only informative but entertaining. He made us all want to be meteorologists! Then we were off to the Carnegie Institution. We visited the Carnegie Terrestrial Magnetism Lab. We were instructed about radioisotopes and how they help us date rocks and the planet. Next we got to use a Mass Spectrometer to date rocks. It was unbelievable to have rocks in front of us that we were dating at 4.2 million years old! Then we were able to use the Scanning Electron Microscope. I have only been asking my school to purchase one of these for my 7th graders. I guess they don't want to shell out the $750,000 for the one we got to use! I was amazed to see how this microscope could be used to identify the composition of the rocks that were millions of years old. Exhausted but thrilled, we returned to our hotel to get ready for Day 5.
Friday, Day 5
We returned to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History for lessons on Human Origins and Global Change. I loved checking out the various fossils of skulls and trying to identify from what animal they came from. The evolution of the skulls of humans was fascinating. To see the clues left behind in these skulls to help see the evolution was remarkable. The paleoclimatology demonstration helped us understand the use of isotopes in fossils to make conclusions about the climate history of our planet. And we could not help to laugh at the demonstration on how we humans learned to walk upright! Exhausted but excited to take what we learned back to our students, the crew said their good byes and headed back to their homes across the country.
Honestly, the two SSEAT sessions that I have had the privilege of attending have sparked new activities and knowledge in my classroom. I am not sure who has benefited more: me, or the students I am sharing what I learned with. No college course or in-service I have taken has come close to what I have gained through SSEAT. I cannot thank Dow and the Smithsonian enough for this opportunity that has renewed me professionally and personally. I hope that next year I am honored with attending the Energy Innovation and Implications SSEAT!