In the Trenches - January 2021

Inspirational Experiences for Students

Volume 11, Number 1

In This Issue

Online Supplements

This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. Members can follow the "Read more" links below to access full versions of the articles online. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches, join NAGT


Redina Finch Editor-in-Chief, Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL.

Welcome to a new year and a new semester! I certainly needed the break after last semester. Hopefully you managed to take a break and do something fun too. We've had a bit of ice and snow in Illinois to make things a little more challenging and a lot more beautiful!

As we move into another COVID-19-influenced semester, we've all become experts(ish) at adapting to new teaching demands. I've always said that teachers are some of the most creative and giving people. In the Trenches articles certainly illustrate that. Since we've all had to adjust our teaching to a more online mode, the January issue is very timely. This special issue is fully online and features articles that highlight some of the innovative ways we've transitioned to teaching online and continue to inspire students. Read more...

Teaching with Online Field Experiences: New resources by the community, for the community

ANNE EGGER is the Executive Director of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and an Associate Professor of Geological Sciences and Science Education at Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA. CHRIS ATCHISON is an Associate Professor of Geoscience Education in the School of Education and the Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH. Kurtis C. Burmeister is an Associate Professor of Geology at California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, CA. LAURA RADEMACHER is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at the University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA. KATHERINE RYKER is an Assistant Professor in the School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. BASIL TIKOFF is a Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Wisconsin Madison, WI.

Field camps and other significant field experiences often serve as capstone courses for students majoring in the geosciences. Typically, these four- to six-week experiences are intensive and immersive: students and instructors live together, eat meals together, and work together in the field on questions that are both physically and intellectually challenging.


In the early spring of 2020, as colleges and universities across the country shifted to fully online teaching and sent students home, it became increasingly clear that in-person summer field camps would not be possible. Simply cancelling the courses also was not an option, as many fulfill graduation requirements. For this reason, many programs looked to redesign their multi-week, in-person field courses into online experiences. To further complicate this daunting task, in most cases, instructors had less than a couple months to accomplish the transition to an online format. Read more...

Geoscience Ambassadors: A change-making program that is reinventing what it means to be a geoscientist

KATHERINE K. ELLINS ( is the Program Director for Geoscience Education at the Jackson School of Geoscience at The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX. ADAM PAPENDIECK ( is a Lecturer and Writer in Residence for the Department of Geological Sciences at Jackson School of Geoscience at The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX. JULIA A. CLARKE ( is a Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the Jackson School of Geoscience at The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.

Despite decades of discourse and action in pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion in the geosciences (Gillette, 1972; Williams, 2018), there has been limited change for under-represented groups in our discipline (Callahan et al., 2017). Listening more closely to the stories and ideas of a younger and more diverse cohort of prospective changemakers in the geosciences may offer the opportunity to develop radically new solutions. Launched in fall 2018, as part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Education grant to Jackson School of Geosciences Professor Julia Clarke, the GeoscienceAmbassadors program amplifies the voices of undergraduate and graduate student geoscientists, helping them craft transformational personal narratives and creative interventions that challenge traditional assumptions about what it means to be a geoscientist. Read more...

"I Don't Have A Clue"- A Format for Introducing Problem Solving in the Earth Sciences

DAVID S. CHAPMAN is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus for the Department of Geology and Geophysics and Dean Emeritus for the Graduate School at The University of Utah- Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City, UT.

Sitting in an apartment in Uzes, France, while on sabbatical, I was reading an International Herald Tribune story about a California couple who tried for a month to feed themselves on a dollar a day per person. The slant of the article was towards the difficulty of affording healthful food, but it contained a figure on the average amount of money that a North American spends, per day, on food.


I turned to my wife Inga and said, "What do you think is the average cost of feeding oneself for a day?"  "I don't have a clue," she replied, rather too quickly.  That response pushed a button for me.  One that is often pushed by students who give an identical response when queried about something they could figure out.

So I responded, "No clue, eh?  Does it cost 10 cents a day?"  "It costs much more than that," said Inga.  "Does it cost $100 a day?," I continued.  "Don't be ridiculous," she said.  I went on to explain that I was not trying to be ridiculous, but was in fact trying to make the point that she did have a clue about the daily cost of food.  She had in fact quickly bounded her estimate by two numbers.  After some further thought about our grocery bills she said, "If you need a single number, then 8 dollars a day."  The number given in the International Herald Tribune story was 7 dollars a day. Read more...

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards for January 2021

NAGT recognizes outstanding teaching assistants in geoscience education with up to 30 awards annually. Both undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants are eligible for the award. Award winners receive a one year membership in NAGT, which includes an online subscription to the Journal of Geoscience Education and our In The Trenches quarterly magazine. The yearly membership starts January 1st of the upcoming year. The undergraduate student awards are the gift of Thomas Hendrix, Grand Valley State University. Tom was the recipient of the 1994 Neil Miner award and he also served as President of NAGT as editor of the Journal of Geoscience Education. The graduate student awards are funded by NAGT.


Read all about the January 2021 award recipients on the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award web page.

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