Bringing real-world geologic data to the college classroom: A conversation with Professor Jeffrey M. Simpson
Introduction. Several weeks ago the interactive Natural Hazards in Arizona Viewer crashed. Several people called to notify us, including Jeff Simpson. Jeff teaches geoscience courses at Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC) in the Maricopa Community College system. He was using the hazard viewer in his Mineral Resources and Mining in Arizona Lab at the time the web page crashed. Fortunately, our IT/Geoinformatics staff was able to relaunch the viewer within 48 hours minimizing the inconvenience.
Jeff and I struck up a conversation on how he uses AZGS geologic materials to instruct his students using real-world, real-place data. Here is the gist of that discussion.
AZGS - Jeff, have you previously used AZGS materials in the classroom?
JMS -Yes. I wrote the ‘Mineral Resources & How Much We Use Every Year’ lab in May/June 2020 and tried it in Summer Session 1 with my CGCC Geology 110 students. It will be used again in Summer Session 2 (going on now) and in the fall. A typical lab will have 24 students. Lectures can be up to 72 students but often are limited to 24 students.
AZGS – How do your students respond to the application of real data in the classroom/lab.
JMS - Many of the labs I write end with a summary asking students to share what they learned, a suggestion, or an appreciation. Students were pretty effusive in their evaluation of this lab, saying that they really enjoyed it. They had neither known nor considered: a) much about mining in Arizona; b) how important mining is to our daily lives; and c) how widespread mining in Arizona is.
The students also were pretty adamant about recycling more. Students like the interactive assignments that include maps with tools. The AZGS resource was what made this lab work.
AZGS - How did you incorporate AZGS Active mines report?
JMS - The AZGS Active Mines report is the reason this lab exists. I read about this GIS tool in an AZGS e-mail, I think. I pasted that Active Mines URL into my calendar as a reminder, thinking, "I could create something out of this someday." That reminder sat in my calendar for many weeks (if not months), always getting moved back until after the spring semester ended and we made some sense out of the post-lockdown mess.
AZGS – What is the value home-cooked labs in instructing/engaging your students.
JMS - I always try to have the students see how the topic is relevant locally, how we are impacted. That changes the topic from being an abstract to being something about us and seems to increase the interest, learning, and retention. A generic lab usually doesn't have an Arizona emphasis.
Make it local. Make it personal. Make it meaningful.
Figure 1. Field Trip to Lost Dutchman State Park with Dr. Carolina Londoño Michel and Dr. Mike Santoro
AZGS - Do you have other home-grown lab topics and are they available for others to use?
JMS - I've created the following which may be of interest. Please copy and use these labs, giving credit to the author/authors. If you do use the lab or have suggestions, contact Jeff at email@example.com. Thanks!
- Economic Minerals Lab, Part 2 - Copper Mining in Arizona - This lab looks at the percentage of copper in various minerals, how much ore must be extracted to produce the copper required for a car and a house, the area of the mines and the tailings, and the surface water resources that can be impacted by mining. This lab started with a seed planted by Dr. Roy Schiesser and with some ideas from Dr. Mike Santoro, both of CGCC.
- Water Footprint Lab
- Mass Wasting Lab
- Water Footprint Lab
Soon I will be working on the Arizona Natural Hazards Lab using the Natural Hazards in Arizona viewer. Dr. Carolina Londoño Michel of CGCC and I often work together writing labs. Teamwork is really beneficial.
AZGS – How has the coronavirus impacted teaching at CGCC?
JMS - Summer 2020 classes will be virtual. And now it appears that our Fall-2020 classes and labs will be virtual, too.
Bio: When not teaching geology at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, a job he loves with people he admires, Jeff works at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a technical writer in geophysics, builds energy-efficient tiny houses, and teaches hands-on science to little folks in China, though not during the summer of 2020.
In the past Jeff has worked for the BLM at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado and for the National Park Service as an interpretive ranger at Kilauea (Volcanoes National Park) and Glen Canyon/Lake Powell.
Jeff has lived and worked in Pago Pago, American Samoa and Athens, Greece. He enjoys mountain biking on his Yeti SB 5.5, hiking, travel, acoustic guitar, gardening, writing, computing, studying environmental issues focusing on sustainability and alternative architecture, and spending time with friends and family. Jeff teaches geology both as content and a process, with a hands-on approach, and with a sense of humor. He is not fond of writing autobiographical blurbs.
- Arizona Geological Survey, 2019, Natural Hazards in Arizona Viewer.
- Richardson, C.A., Swartzbaugh, L., Evans, T. and Conway F.M., 2019, Directory of Active Mines in Arizona: FY 2019. Arizona Geological Survey Open-File Report-19-04, 12 pages. Interactive Arizona Mines Map @ )
- Simpson, J.M., 2020, Mineral Resources & Mining in Arizona Lab. Maricopa Community College, Geological Disasters and the Environment (GLG-110).
Figure 2. Advanced soil studies? Nope. Planting tomatoes in a hoop house in Salida, CO
Cover image: J.M. Simpson at ExxonMobil Bighorn Basin Field Camp - Mowry Shale flatirons, Sheep Mountain anticline, Bighorn Basin