Geology, Homeschooling, Local Travel

Alternative Learning Class (ALC) in Geology for Homeschooling Kids

Video file of our 3-day ALC in Geology

One of the best things about homeschooling is how easily the world can become your child’s laboratory – every corner can be explored and studied at his or her pace, at his or her own time without the confining corners of a classroom. Last week, I became an “accidental” mentor for homeschool educator parents and their kids during a Geology Tour that I organized. Before the tour, I asked my fellow educator parents if they would be interested in a Geology Tour within UP Diliman campus. The original objective was to just visit the museum and meet other homeschooling kids as part of socialization. After all, I’m just a newbie homeschool educator mom still trying to explore the depth of homeschooling. When I posted about the tour, it was a shot in the dark, originally meant to gauge their interest. When I returned to my post within the day, I received overwhelming positive response and queries from parents, I had to stay up late for nights just to answer queries. If you’re a friend, you’d know I’m in the sack as early as 8 PM!

One of my student got to use the Brunton compass and tell the North direction. These kids learn fast!

So I called up my friends at the National Institute Geological Sciences (NIGS) in UP Diliman campus and inquired if I could reserve a week to visit the museum. This was in mid-June and the museum was fully booked for the month. The earliest I could be accommodated was on July 9. So I reserved the week of July 9-12 for the Geology Tour through a series e-mail exchanges with the museum’s faculty admin and was finally granted the reservation and as bonus was also given permission to tour the facilities and outcrop within the institute. As the Geologist guide and mentor, I had to lay down the objectives of the tour to the NIGS admin so that they will know what the parents and kids will do while inside the confines of the institute. Preparing the course plan gave birth to my version of the “Alternative Learning Class in Geology” for homeschoolers.

The rock outcrop within the institute is a perfect laboratory for Geologist-wannabes. One of my students tried her hand on sampling rock using the rock pick.

In two weeks time, I was able to prepare the module for this ALC and organize the parents and kids into their respective schedule, each session was designed to keep the participants busy for three hours. Each class consisted of minimum 25-30 persons, with kids generally in grade school level. The biggest challenge in teaching this age group mostly lies in simplifying scientific jargons into words that non-geologists would easily understand. Also, since kids in this age group can get bored so easily, the NIGS museum’s guides and me also prepared activities for them to do while inside the museum.

I designed the ALC to be mostly experience-based. The Geologist guides and me narrated interesting stuff about Philippine geology, rocks, and minerals. The participants also got to touch some of the specimens in the museum. After the museum tour, the participants got to work as Geologist for one hour – kids were taught how to locate themselves on the map I provided using a printed map and an app on my phone; learned about the rock’s geologic history; and experienced using basic tools such as the Brunton compass, rock pick, and hand lens.

Below are photos of activities done by kids as well as some of the features of the museum that I wish to highlight in this article:

One of the objectives of the ALS in Geology is to turn the kids into “Geologists of the Day” by having them experience how to locate themselves on the map, identify rocks using hand lens, use Brunton compass in looking for magnetic North and using it to tell the direction of a fracture or fault. They also got to experience how to obtain rock sample using the rock pick.

The NIGS museum display specimens of rocks, minerals, and fossils commonly found on earth particularly in Philippines. The museum guide consists of graduate students from the institute. During the tour, the kids are taught how minerals, fossils, and rocks are classified by geologists based on physical characteristics, chemical properties (in the case of rocks and minerals), and kingdom and phylum based on morphology and complexity of anatomy (in the case of fossils).

One of the most prized display in the museum are these two dinosaur eggs. Displayed with them is this ostrich egg (white) for size comparison.
Another prized fossil in the museum is this stegodon tusk collected by Dr. Scholl, a German Geologist who taught in the institute in the 80’s. This fossil along with remains of an extinct tortoise were discovered in Rizal. One of the things the students learned during the ALS is the story behind these fossils.
Kids could not resist playing in this sand box where they can dig up and hunt for fossils underneath.

Tiled gallery below shows kids, guides, and parents during the tour of the museum:

After the one-hour fieldwork, the kids were instructed to prepare a geologic map by coloring the map with just one color to represent just one rock that was observed in NIGS.

Another feature of the museum that I wish to highlight is this interactive Augmented Reality Sand Box where kids learned about topographic map and flood hazard using an app and this sand. The contours’ colors change while the kids play with the sand. They can create mountains, lakes, and make it rain and flood using this AR display! How awesome is that?!

Dinosaur erasers and stickers, petrified wood, minerals, jewelries, and other geology-related items are on sale at the Museum Shop. Proceeds of the sale goes to the maintenance of the museum. You can drop by at the shop anytime to buy anything you want on display, just contact Cat Lit at Room 014 at NIGS basement.

Some of my creations are on display at the NIGS Museum Shop so if you want them, drop by anytime and look for Ms. Cat Lit.

As part of my advocacy to prepare the parents and kids for geologic hazards such as earthquake, I demonstrated the proper way to Duck, Cover, and Hold; mentioned some of the basic items that need to be in their Go Bags; and asked them to participate in an earthquake drill on the way to the rock outcrop.

As added bonus, I also taught the parents and kids how to evacuate their residence if the Big One hits Metro Manila and neighboring cities. Aside from the usual Duck, Cover, and Hold, I also demonstrated how to vacate their houses if an earthquake happens at night time when power outage is expected thus, can leave the whole metro in darkness. We had an impromptu earthquake drill after the demo on the way to the “field” which is a rock outcrop a short distance away from the museum at the center of the NIGS building.

I also taught the kids and parents how to properly go down the stairs in case of earthquake or stampede. Such a drill can be useful in mall scenario during a terrorist attack when a stampede is expected. Sounds morbid I know, but hey, it’s a dangerous world we live in.

There are so many people I wish to thank for making this 5-session Geology Tour/ALC successful:

The NIGS admin, teachers and RA’s for helping me organize the activities and allowing us to tour around the institute’s facilities. I am an alumnus of the institute but the assistance extended to me from setting the dates, approval of the course plan, down to activities done in the museum, all these were unexpected. I can’t thank you guys enough.

The parents and their kids of the Sulit Tipid at Pinoy Homeschooling group for actively participating in the museum tour, earthquake drill, and 1-hour fieldwork. Thank you also for suggestions of improvement and the warm feedbacks. I promise you, your words were duly noted and taken to heart.

My kids for participating also and for helping out the other kids. My eldest son chimed in from time to time to answer some of the kids’ questions. I must have taught him well!

I thank God Almighty for the beautiful weather the whole time. Did you know it only rained in the afternoon after the Geotour was over? I want to call that an answered prayer!

My friends from college days, Frank, JC, and Joane, for dropping by!

Thank you, my daddy in heaven, for your guidance. You are my angel, forever.

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