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."