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Outreach

USGS Welcomes Students for Earth Science Week Celebration in Menlo Park, California


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Mary McGann shows students a small grab sample
Above: Mary McGann shows students a small grab sampler (behind core sample) used to collect sediment from the sea floor. Photograph by Florence Wong. [larger version]

Where could students get a bumpy ride in an "earthquake chair," crack open a geode, compare the eruptions of Mount St. Helens and Kilauea, look at anaerobic microbes living inside termite guts, get their own pieces of basalt dredged from the deep-sea floor, learn how to read a map, and much more? At the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) center in Menlo Park, Calif., on Friday, October 13, 2006, in a 1-day celebration of Earth Science Week.

Approximately 1,350 students from more than 20 local schools swarmed over the campus from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., enjoying interactive, hands-on exhibits and activities designed to stimulate interest in Earth science. The mild day was ideal for outdoor as well as indoor exhibits, which were set up at approximately 25 stations around campus. The visiting students ranged from 1st through 8th graders, and there was something to please kids at every level. Offerings by Western Coastal and Marine Geology (WCMG) team members included:

  • "Mid-ocean Ridge Explorations," in which Carol Reiss and Ginger Barth gave a quick lesson in plate tectonics and showed the students samples of weird animals (tube worms) and mineral chimneys collected at hot springs on mid-ocean ridges.

    Carol Reiss briefs students Left: Carol Reiss (above) briefs students on sea-floor spreading and plate tectonics. Photograph by Florence Wong. [larger version]

  • "San Francisco Bay Floor," in which Florence Wong, John Chin, and Don Woodrow took students on virtual "flights" over sea-floor terrain inside and outside the Golden Gate and invited them to examine mud and silt cored from beneath the bay floor.

    Don Woodrow explains what scientists can learn from mud Left: Don Woodrow explains what scientists can learn from mud and silt cored from beneath the floor of San Francisco Bay. Photograph by Florence Wong. [larger version]

  • "Our Micro-World," in which Mary McGann described tiny animals that live in sediment on the sea floor, let students handle a small grab sampler (used to collect sea-floor sediment) and sieves (used to separate sediment grains of different sizes), and helped them look at tiny marine creatures through microscopes.

    Andrea Foster shows a student colonies of microorganisms living in San Francisco Bay mud Left: Andrea Foster shows a student colonies of microorganisms living in San Francisco Bay mud, most of them in layers that lack oxygen. These animals—and bacteria living in termite guts, also on display at this popular exhibit—opened students' minds to microbes living in harsh environments, such as hypersaline lakes, underground oil deposits, deep-sea hydrothermal vents—maybe even other planets. Photograph by Lewis Mendez. [larger version]

  • "Submarine Landslides Can Cause Destructive Tsunamis," in which Lori Hibbeler let students trigger "tsunamis" by sliding a brick into a tub of water—one of the many popular exhibits reprised from last spring's campuswide Open House.

    eager students raise their hands to answer a question Left: Students are eager to answer a question posed by Lori Hibbeler at her display on how "Submarine Landslides Can Cause Destructive Tsunamis." Photograph by Lewis Mendez. [larger version]

  • "Rock Giveaway," at which Peter Triezenberg and Ray Sliter gave away pieces of basalt dredged from 2,000-m water depth on the Juan de Fuca Ridge off Washington and Oregon. Carol Reiss organized this activity, with the help of Alex Ma and Peter, who helped break the rocks into giveaway-size pieces, and Carolyn Degnan, who provided photographs and posters for a backdrop.

    Ray Sliter and a cart of rocks Ray Sliter surrounded by students
    Above: Ray Sliter is ready to give away samples of basalt from the Juan de Fuca sea-floor spreading ridge (left) [larger version] and soon finds himself surrounded by eager students (right). [larger version] Photographs by Florence Wong.

WCMG team members also helped behind the scenes to make the event run smoothly: Carol Reiss served on the planning committee; Carolyn Degnan and Helen Gibbons helped direct traffic; and Helen, Florence Wong, and Greg Gabel put up numerous signs to guide visitors to displays.

Earth Science Week is an annual event, celebrated this year from October 8 to 14, 2006, with the theme "Be a Citizen Scientist!" As noted on the event's Web site, citizen scientists are "real people collecting data, observing, and testing…. A citizen scientist is YOU involved in real science and research!" The numerous hands-on activities at the USGS Menlo Park celebration encouraged just such involvement.

Thank-you note
Above: Thank-you note from a satisfied customer.

Teachers and parent chaperones expressed delight with the day's offerings, and the children's enjoyment was obvious. In thank-you letters received by event organizer Christy Ryan, one teacher wrote: "I thought the exhibits were extremely well done, the presenters obviously excited about their work, and terrific with the children…." Another wrote: "Our students commented that this was the best field trip they had ever gone on. We are a school with a huge English as a Second Language population, and these kids just don't have the background knowledge or experience of most kids. Earth Science Day brought education to a higher level for them." A satisfied student wrote: "I loved going to USGS! It was an amazing experience.… Maybe someday I'll work at USGS."

The USGS in Menlo Park was only one venue in the nationwide celebration of Earth Science Week. Earth scientists at universities, government agencies, and businesses nationwide opened their doors to visitors, visited classrooms, and hosted field trips. Earth Science Week was established in 1998 by the American Geological Institute (AGI) to give students and citizens new opportunities to discover the Earth sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth. It highlights the important contributions that Earth and environmental sciences make to society, and invites the public to become engaged in current scientific exploration. More information about USGS Earth Science Week activities, including links to suggestions for how the public can learn about and get involved in science, is posted at URL http://www.usgs.gov/earthscience/.


Related Sound Waves Stories
Coastal and Marine Exhibits Are Wet and Wild at USGS Open House in Menlo Park, California
July 2006

Related Web Sites
USGS Earth Science Week Activities
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Earth Science Week
American Geological Institute

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in this issue:

Fieldwork
cover story:
Satellites Help Scientists Track Migratory Birds

Effects of Urbanization on Nearshore Ecosystems in Puget Sound

Studying the Elwha River in Preparation for Dam Removal

Sea-Floor Mapping Project Expands to South Shore and Cape Cod Bay

Outreach Earth Science Week Celebration in Menlo Park, CA

Google Maps View of Western Coastal and Marine Geology Projects

Meetings Community Forum on Red Tide

Benthic Sponge Taxonomy Course at Mote Marine Laboratory

Awards USGS Team Receives Service to America Medal

Staff In Memoriam: Terry Bruns, 1946-2006

Publications Release of DVD "Bedforms and Cross-Bedding in Animation"

Nov. / Dec. 2006 Publications List


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