Rivers to Range: Exploring the Geology of the Pioneer Valley

A Professional Development Institute for Grades 3-8 Educators

During this Institute participants explored the geology of the Pioneer Valley – past and present, to create learning experiences for their students in the school year ahead!

Our week began at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, where educators experienced an anchoring phenomena centered on what causes the earth surface to change over time, generating notices and wonderings, exploring related phenomena, constructing models and creating driving questions for a unit. An engineering design challenge followed – to build an earthquake proof building – in which educators worked in teams and reflected on the construction of earthquake tables in their classrooms. A tour of the Hitchcock Center’s Living Building rounded out the day. At the Beneski Museum of Natural History educators learned about ichnology and used this knowledge to design their own dinosaur track stories in plaster of Paris. This work prepared them to conduct inquiry investigations interpreting dinosaur tracks both ex situ in the Museum’s collection, and in situ at the Trustees of the Reservation Dinosaur Footprints site in Holyoke. Guided tours of the museum collection helped educators frame their understanding of geological time scales, and explorations and discussions of artist’s renderings of paleo-landscapes helped surface connections between science and art.

The Institute continued at the Springfield Science Museum, helping educators review and build on information from our earlier days. At the Springfield Museum we explored exhibits on geology and saw water erosion demonstrated in real time with a stream table. A puzzle-based inquiry activity brought plate tectonics into our programming, and led to discussions about scaling this investigation into their classrooms. Our week concluded with the Hitchcock Center and a hike to the summit of Mt. Holyoke that allowed educators to experience, first hand, the geology they had been exploring throughout the week. Educators also engaged in an investigation classifying different rock types, and generating a rock age timeline. Throughout the course educators delved into how the modern landscape can provide clues to a very different past, and help us think about and prepare for the future.

Collaborating Partners:

Beneski Museum
of Natural History

Hitchcock Center
for the Environment

Springfield Science Museum

The Trustees of Reservations