Science teachers became students at an annual geology camp earlier this summer.
A decade-old event sponsored by Saudi Aramco in partnership with Texas A&M University took 36 fifth through12th-grade teachers on an 18-day journey through Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.
Dubbed “G-Camp,” the program is aimed at providing teachers with practical geological knowledge they can use to create science lessons for their classes.
“As a lead sponsor of the program, Aramco is a natural fit – since geology and unlocking the secrets of the Earth’s crust to meet our consumers’ energy needs are at the core of our business. It’s been our mission for the past 80-plus years,” said Jack Moore, director of Aramco Services Company’s office in Washington, D.C.
Timothy Diggs, a senior geological consultant with ASC, accompanied the group on part of the trip, sharing his knowledge of geology as well as providing an industry perspective. Diggs focuses on technology reconnaissance to help Saudi Aramco increase productivity and efficiency.
“I was able to bring an applied perspective to observations made at various field stops on the trip. The students were particularly interested in the application of observations from modern depositional systems to ancient reservoirs. For example, we spent several hours at Great Sand Dunes National Monument discussing modern aeolian processes, environments and deposits. I later described the importance of aeolian depositional systems, such as the Norphlet, as oil and gas reservoirs. This also helped dispel the common misconception that caves filled with oil constitute most of our reservoirs,” Diggs said.
“The students were also somewhat surprised at how rocks that typically have little to do with sedimentary deposits in general, and oil and gas reservoirs in particular, can inform our understanding of reservoirs. At Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, we discussed how certain minerals of volcanic origin can help us understand the burial and thermal history hydrocarbon reservoirs,” Diggs said.
“Our knowledge of the various aspects complemented one another and, as a result, it was a great learning experience for everyone,” he said. He said learning in the field was enlightening for many who knew much of the information only from an academic standpoint.
The teachers were able to develop curriculum material, design virtual field trips for their students and participate in hands-on outdoor learning to identify the processes that form and shape the surface of the Earth.
Spreading Interest in STEM
“A program like this is a natural fit for us. Aramco is addressing global energy challenges with innovation and new technologies that come from great ideas. Partnering with Texas A&M University to educate students about geology is one of the ways we look to shape the future. Teachers bring their field experience back into the classroom to create exciting lessons. By inspiring teachers, we look to inspire students,” said Alma Kombargi, public affairs director for ASC.
G-Camp is a component of Aramco’s worldwide emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education programs. Besides the G-Camp program, Aramco also sponsors the iExplore science program for 5th grade teachers and students at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The purpose of both programs is to equip teachers with new techniques to keep students interested in STEM-related fields.
The teachers viewed landforms including the Great Sand Dunes, an area of large sand dunes up to 750 feet tall in south-central Colorado, Taos Gorge and Valles Caldera, a 13.7-mile-wide volcanic caldera in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. Among the different geological features explored were ancient marine deposits, faults, glacial landscapes, streams, landslides, energy resources and mineral resources.
Rick Giardino and Carolyn Schroeder, faculty members at Texas A&M University’s Department of Geology and Geosciences, founded the camp in 2007 and have served as advisers and mentors for the science teachers.
Giardino started the program because he wanted to give teachers, who do not necessarily have an extensive background in geology, an opportunity to gain more hands-on experience and better equip them to teach their students.