February 2013

Learning in the field

B.C. industry connects with teachers through educational initiatives

By Sheila R. Stenzel

 

The Stanley Park Geotour group examines the Cretaceous sandstone-Tertiary andesite contact near Siwash Rock | Photo courtesy of MineralsEd


MineralsEd, a non-profit, industry-supported organization dedicated to providing K-12 education about Earth sciences, mineral resources and mining, plays a unique role in British Columbia. In cooperation with the mining industry, MineralsEd runs various programs for teachers and students, which help build a well-informed public and stimulate young peoples’ interest in minerals industry careers.

In October 2012, MineralsEd, formally known as Mineral Resources Education Program of B.C., organized four professional development field trips for 135 teachers. These trips included a Nanaimo Area GeoTour presented in partnership with Vancouver Island University geologists Steven Earle and Tim Stokes, and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) geologist Malaika Ulmi; a Stanley Park Geotour delivered to Lower Mainland teachers in partnership with NRCan geologists Bob Turner and Marianne Quat; a tour of New Gold’s New Afton copper-gold mine for Kamloops area teachers; and a tour of Walter Energy’s Willow Creek coal mine for teachers in the Peace River region. The pros teamed up with a MineralsEd teacher who facilitated the outing, serving as a translator of technical language and advising on both curriculum ties and how to adapt content for students.

Geology field trip leaders selected outcrop stops to illustrate important geologic processes, from rock formation to mountain building, and to help build a picture of the natural history of the area. Field observations combined with the guides’ interpretations helped teachers relate textbook concepts to the real world. The field trips also provided a context for discussing ore deposits and mining, as well as natural hazards related to the tectonically active, mountainous province. This learning experience for the teachers also serves as a model for them to run similar field trips with their students.

Mine visits began with an overview presentation that introduced key aspects of the operation – its history, its productivity, the workforce, markets and its community involvement. Throughout the tour, teachers saw the scale of operations, observed how mineral resources are extracted and processed, and were introduced to the specialty equipment, technology and people involved. Mine personnel with expertise in the different areas visited shared information and answered teachers’ questions. Teachers on the New Afton site visit went underground to observe the infrastructure for block caving ­copper-gold ore mining and learned why that method was used. They also learned about the company’s employment and training ­partnership with nearby First Nations. ­Teachers visiting Willow Creek observed large-scale surface mining of coal in mountainous terrain and learned about the mine’s support for students in the Secondary School Apprenticeship program – a partnership between the Industry Trades Association and the B.C. Ministry of Education that lets students work as apprentices before they finish high school.

Since 1991, MineralsEd has supported hundreds of teachers by facilitating geology field trips and mine site visits in nearly all regions of the province. Participants have visited metal and coal mines, open pit and underground operations, industrial mineral mines and aggregate operations, fly-in mining camps and mineral processing plants. These trips are an essential part of ­MineralsEd’s long-standing school program. Its outreach initiatives include professional development workshops for K-12 teachers, teacher and student programs at industry conferences, elementary classroom workshops and work placements for high school ­students.

Collectively, these projects have supported more than 8,100 teachers and 740,000 students across the province.

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