Rocks revealing ancient volcanic activity - students enjoy a guided tour with a geologist

Rocks can reveal a lot about a region’s past. Dr Jan Marten Huizenga and a team from James Cook University spent some time showing students from The Cathedral School in Townsville what to look for. 

Although rocks themselves may not be fast-paced, a geologist will assure you that does not mean the study of rocks is not exciting to the trained eye. Just ask Dr Jan Marten Huizenga from James Cook University who, through his STEM Professionals in Schools partnership with The Cathedral School Townsville, successfully engages year 9 students in a few hours of rock study at their local Pallarenda Beach.

“The Townsville region is a mosaic of different rock types that formed circa 300 million years ago when there was active volcanism at the eastern margin of Australia. Within about 500 meters along the beach, the rocks tell you what happened here; they provide a snapshot of the Earth’s history at that place,” said Dr Huizenga.

Dr Huizenga and the students observed that the rocks at Cape Pallarenda probably represent the core of a small volcano, and a violent one at that - shattered rocks that can be observed in the area indicate that the volcanic eruptions must have been ferocious.

“Although this rock formation activity is very old, the information is useful to us now, for example in town planning. Nearby Castle Hill shows signs of instability, and walking around it, you can observe fractures in the rocks indicating that some big pieces of rocks may fall off in the near future,” said Dr Huizenga.

Teacher Brianna Hore said the activity has brought a practical view to a key part of the year 9 curriculum – plate tectonics.

“It’s been really good having Jan come into the classroom and take us out on the field trip as well. His expertise gives teachers a better knowledge base to work from, and as a result both staff and students are more excited by the subject.”

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Engaging students from Cathedral School in real world STEM education]

 

[Images move through of students hiking up and along a rocky outcrop, sitting down listening to Dr Jan Huzienga and standing up listening to Jan talking]

 

[Images move through of Jan talking to the camera, the students climbing over the rocks and then Jan talking to the camera again and text appears: Dr Jan Huzienga, James Cook University]

 

Dr Jan Huzienga:  Today we took the students from Cathedral High School up to Pallarenda Beach

to look at the geology of the Townsville region and we took them around for an hour and a half to show them the different rocks you can see here. 

 

[Image changes to show Jan talking to students seated on the rocky outcrop and then the image changes to show a back view of the students hiking over the rocks]

 

We really wanted to focus on the plate tectonic activities that took place here in this setting of Townsville around 300 million years ago. 

 

[Image changes to show Jan talking to the camera]

 

The school kids we took here are Year 9 and plate tectonics is part of the curriculum in the Year 9. So, that’s why I emphasized that point here. 

 

[Image changes to show Jan talking to the students and pointing and then the image changes to show Brianna Hore talking to the camera and text appears: Brianna Hore, Science Teacher, Cathedral School, Townsville]

 

Brianna Hore: It’s been really good having Jan come into the classroom and take us out on the field trip as well. 

 

[Image changes to show Jan sitting on the rocks and pointing to a diagram as the students listen and then the image changes to show the students standing on the rocks and then Jan talking to them]

 

It gives us and the kids a practical view and Jan’s been in contact with us about you know the actual background, so us teachers have a better knowledge base so we can get more excited and the kids get more excited and I’ve noticed they have because kids are like “Oh rocks again” but actually coming out here and seeing the involvement I think’s been a great opportunity.

 

[Image changes to show Brianna talking to the camera]

 

It’s an awesome programme.

 

[Images move through of Jan talking to the students, a rear view of the students walking on the rocky outcrop, Brodee Ryan talking to the camera and the students on the rocks again and text appears: Brodee Ryan, Year 9 Student, The Cathedral School, Townsville]

 

Brodee Ryan: I enjoy having an actual scientist come to the school because it’s like… hearing it from him, it makes me more interested in the topic and just seeing it in real life makes you more connected to the subject.

 

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: STEM Professionals in Schools: Engaging students from Cathedral School in real world STEM]

Engaging students from Cathedral School in real world STEM education

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