Geology students experience a new way of learning outside of the classroom

Spring break can look different for everyone. This year, a group of Wayne State University geology students opted to spend theirs exploring the ancient landscape of Missouri's St. Francois Mountains - and they wouldn't change it for the world.

The group was comprised of students from ESG 3160 (Petrology) and ESG 3300 (Structural Geology) and the trip was a prime opportunity to use their classroom knowledge while camping and studying rocks and structures in their natural habitat.

Students on a trip to St. Francois Mountains
Students on a trip to St. Francois Mountains.


Professors of Geology Sarah Brownlee and Scott Burdick accompanied the group on the classic petrology field trip. The St. Francois Mountains boast a wide range of igneous rocks, from intrusive granites and gabbros to extrusive rhyolites and ignimbrites. The trip was designed to bring students and faculty together in a unique way outside of the typical classroom setting.

"You may be surprised to hear there are volcanic rocks in Missouri, but these rocks are very old, 1.5 to 1.3 billion years old, and were formed during two periods of caldera-forming volcanism," said Brownlee.

Wayne State's Department of Environmental Science and Geology is known for its once-in-a-lifetime field trips where students are immersed in the subject they study. During this trip, students camped in tents to best learn about earth materials and processes in a unique and hands-on way.

"I have been on many trips like this before, both as a student and as a professor," said Brownlee. "Most of the students on this trip had not had this opportunity yet because of Covid, so it was great to get back out there!"

Connor Bailey, a geology student, saw this trip as a great educational experience. As a student, he was excited to put his knowledge to work and use it in a real-life setting.

"It was a great opportunity to tie everything together and see how the topics we learned in class are relevant to a location in the real world," he said.

Bailey said that camping was one of his favorite parts of the trip. Even though it got pretty cold and snowed the first night, he enjoyed sitting around the fire and getting to know people outside the classroom.

"The camping aspect was a ton of fun; it is one of my favorite activities," said Bailey. "It was great to see these locations and talk about them with my peers and the professors, while using what we learned in class to deduce things about the area and learn about its geologic history was a lot of fun, especially figuring it out as a group."

Environmental Science and Geology students explore the St. Francois Mountains

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