Ditch traditional-classroom lab for hands-on adventure

Students conduct an applied geologic investigation of the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks. Photo courtesy of Janice Hayden.

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Taking a lab for a physical science credit doesn’t have to be in the usual classroom setting while listening to a lecture.

The environmental science lab is a chance for students to do hands-on activities in a setting outside of the classroom, such as Catalina Island.

“It’s a four-day, really intensive lab experience essentially, except the lab is in the field,” Professor of Paleontology Jerry Harris said.

There are 10 to 12 activities students get to participate in on the island that have an environmental focus, such as a wildlife spotting hike, snorkeling to identify fish, water experiments while kayaking, and identifying bats based on their calls.

It’s not all science, though; there is literature involved as well. English professors tag along on the trip and do readings with students about authors and scientists who have influenced environmental science.

“It’s a very multidisciplinary activity,” Harris said. “We try to throw in as much science as we can, but we want to give students the other perspectives as well.”

Harris said he encourages students to sign up for this class because it brings on new experiences and can be eye-opening.

“It’s a new experience and new environment that students can’t get around here,” Harris said. “It is a fun trip that just so happens to count as a lab credit.”

Field Experience: Environmental Science is offered in both the fall and spring semesters. However, if students are more interested in learning about surrounding areas, there are options.

Instructor of Geology Janice Hayden takes her geology lab, Applied Geologic Investigation of Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce National Parks and Geology National Parks, students to these nearby landscapes and monuments.

Hayden said she loves seeing how students are applying what was learned on the field trips into their own lives.

Morgan Bennett, senior criminal justice major said, “I drive around St. George now and point out all of the different types of rocks.”

Bennett said this course gave her an opportunity to see some of these national parks for the first time and for a great price.

“I have always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon, so I was super stoked,” Bennet said. “Also, I have never been hiking in Zion, so it was really cool to do that. I wouldn’t have been able to do that trip by myself for $300, so it was well worth it.”

Applied Geologic Investigation of Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce National Parks is taught in the fall semester over four to five days.

Geology National Parks travels to Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Moab for seven days during spring break.