International field trips in undergraduate geology curriculum: Philosophy and perspectives
Nelson R. Ham, Timothy P. Flood, 2009. "International field trips in undergraduate geology curriculum: Philosophy and perspectives", Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches, Steven J. Whitmeyer, David W. Mogk, Eric J. Pyle
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Field experiences form the core of the undergraduate geology program at St. Norbert College and provide learning opportunities that cannot be duplicated in the classroom. The field is vital for developing in students a life-long “diligent curiosity” for geology—which we define as a persistent inquisitiveness toward our science. We regularly offer an international trip of about 2 wk in length. The trip serves as a capstone experience for our students in several ways: it provides focused time to develop and synthesize their geological knowledge and field skills; it is a setting for “mini” research projects; it challenges students to commit to geology as a career; it offers a multicultural experience; and it develops their emotional maturity.
The international trip need not be logistically daunting or expensive. Most geoscience educators are willing to share their specific experiences and logistical information from leading trips to other countries, but several general recommendations follow. Behavior contracts signed by students emphasize the importance of good conduct and should clearly outline the consequences of poor behavior, especially if a student needs to be removed from a trip. A briefing by a health-care professional well versed in international travel should be required well in advance of a trip, and a medical “inventory” of each participant, focusing on medications, preexisting health conditions, and potential emergency procedures, should be done by the trip leaders. Trip leaders need to work closely with the home institution’s risk management office in drafting a comprehensive liability waiver. Finally, we recommend working with an in-country expeditor, especially for travel. In many countries, utilizing a local driver can be cost effective and may save legal problems in the event of automobile accidents.