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Outreach

Girls Scouts Explore Geology Through Joint Educational Program Between the USGS and the Association of Women Geoscientists



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More than 50 Girl Scouts of middle- and high-school age participated in a weekend geology camping trip on March 13 and 14, 2010. The trip, "Discovering Geology Weekend," was designed to encourage interest in the natural sciences through hands-on experiences that increase understanding of hydrologic interconnections, societal impacts on karst landscape (distinctive landscape that forms above soluble limestone bedrock), and the importance of natural-resource stewardship. The program was supported through a grant from the Association of Women Geoscientists (AWG), whose local members partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Ann Tihansky and Heather Schreppel of the USGS St. Petersburg (Florida) Coastal and Marine Science Center worked with Allison Amram (AWG) and the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida to arrange, plan, and lead the 2-day geologic adventure.

Ann Tihansky and a few Girl Scouts examine Alan Pagels' fossil collection from a limestone quarry in Brooksville, Florida. Ann Tihansky uses a hands-on approach with sugar cubes, sand, and clay to demonstrate the properties of porosity, permeability, and solubility.
Above left: Ann Tihansky and a few Girl Scouts examine Alan Pagels' fossil collection from a limestone quarry in Brooksville, Florida. [larger version]

Above right: Ann Tihansky uses a hands-on approach with sugar cubes, sand, and clay to demonstrate the properties of porosity, permeability, and solubility. [larger version]

During the first day, the girls toured an operating limestone quarry in Brooksville, Florida, where Alan Pagels (Vulcan Materials Co.) gave an educational overview about why limestone is mined and showed examples of the fossils that occur in these deposits. The girls then explored the quarry grounds, filling tote bags with their own fossil discoveries. Next, they toured a variety of ecosystems unique to karst landscapes, including caves and springs. In the upland recharge area, where water enters the ground and infiltrates down to the water table, Tihansky talked about the interconnection of sinkholes, caves, and springs within the karst landscape of west-central Florida. The girls then hiked to Dames Caves in the Withlacoochee State Forest. After a discussion about cave safety, the Girl Scouts eagerly explored the caves and surrounding forest. They discovered a bat, some rare ferns, and fresh mud deposits! Leaving the upland cave area, they traveled to a spring run and watched water discharge from the landscape. The Girl Scouts learned teamwork as they coordinated paddling rowboats through the spring-fed Chassahowitzka River.

The girls discover the joys of spelunking as they descend into one of the Dames Caves. Girl Scouts learn the meaning of teamwork while paddling a rowboat
Above left: The girls discover the joys of spelunking as they descend into one of the Dames Caves. [larger version]

Above right: Two Girl Scouts learn the meaning of teamwork while paddling a rowboat in the Chassahowitzka River. [larger version]

The second day of the trip included a visit to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Center. The girls enjoyed lunch on the dock and an educational session from Tihansky and AWG members Mary Yeargan, Cathleen Jonas, and Sharon Gilberg. They learned about Florida's geologic past and framework and received a hands-on lesson in karst. Yeargan shared her sand collection with the girls, teaching them a bit about sand provenance (the rocks and areas from which the sand grains were derived).

Access to the dock at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River provides a unique opportunity for an up-close view of several endangered West Indian manatees.
Above: Access to the dock at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River provides a unique opportunity for an up-close view of several endangered West Indian manatees. [larger version]

Girl Scouts and their trip leaders
Above: The "Discovering Geology Weekend" Girl Scouts and their trip leaders assemble on a few big rocks in the Brooksville Quarry for a group photo. [larger version]

Ivan Vicente of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided a momentous ending to the trip by giving the girls access to Three Sisters Springs, where they were able to observe more than 50 endangered West Indian manatees taking refuge in the warm spring water. Dennis Farmer, a volunteer from the Friends of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex, briefed the girls on proper behavior around the manatees and explained how the manatees depend on the springs as a refuge.

Worksite field trips and interactions with role models have been shown to have important impacts on girls' academic and career choices. The Girl Scout Council received many positive comments about the March "Discovering Geology Weekend" and hopes to offer the trip again.


Related Web Sites
Association for Women Geoscientists
international organization
Girl Scouts of West Central Florida
educational organization for girls

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in this issue:

Fieldwork
cover story:
Coastal Erosion at Cape Hatteras, NC

Geological Impacts of the Feb. 2010 Tsunami in Chile

USGS Tracks Sediment on Molokai's Reef

ResearchSignificant Natural-Gas Potential in Nile Delta

Outreach Girl Scouts Explore Geology

Earth Science Day in Menlo Park, CA

Meetings Knowledge Management Workshop

Awards David Rubin to Receive Pettijohn Medal

Staff Students Contribute to Modeling Morphologic Change

Publications July 2010 Publications


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