Geology Rocks! brings fun and creative activities to 3rd through 5th graders at local elementary schools near San Jose State. CommUniverCity and geology professor LeAnne Teruya work together to bring this project to an after school program called Think Together at Horace Mann Elementary School and Lowell Elementary School. People of color are underrepresented within STEM careers, so the goal of Geology Rocks! is to change that by exposing children to STEM education at an early age. With topics such as fossils, earthquakes and landslides, elementary school students have the opportunity to learn about science and the Earth in an exciting and engaging way.
San Jose State students have the opportunity to be part of the community and to present what they are currently learning in their classes. Bringing college students in to local elementary schools also helps emphasize a college-going culture. And many of the SJSU students who are taking the course are civil engineers, which shows the connection between geology and its real world applications and underscores how geology affects us all.
For the program, SJSU students are divided into small groups, with each group assigned to a different topic. The SJSU students learn to work together to design engaging, educational and fun activities. With multiple groups at the school site, the elementary students are able to rotate every 15 minutes throughout the two-hour long program to cover different geology topics. Participants learn about landslides, coastal geology, earthquakes and much more with hands-on activities such as creating their own survival kit for an earthquake. Other activities include identifying “fossils” within a sandbox or making different types of volcanoes with Play-Doh.
This past fall semester, Professor Teruya established an activity booklet as a new learning tool. The SJSU student groups created questions about their topic. On the day of the project, elementary students were given the booklets so they could answer the questions and receive a sticker too. The children were then able to take home what they learned as a way to share and retain this information.
“The kids are having fun,” said the Think Together supervisor at Horace Mann Elementary. “Our after school program instruction focus is reading and math, so having SJSU bring other topics in is really great for our kids. They love the hands-on activities, and afterwards they ask questions about what they learned from the college students’ visit.” After participating in the activities, the elementary students indicated an increased interest in science and engineering.
Geology Rocks! will continue for Spring 2020 with a new group of civil engineering students that will create and execute hands-on activities for elementary students.