McKinney, an eighth grade earth science teacher at Castle
Rock Middle School in Castle Rock, Colo., has been selected
as AAPG's National Earth Science Teacher of the Year.
McKinney will receive his award in June at
the AAPG annual meeting in Denver.
AAPG's Teacher of the Year program began
in 1996. It is designed to recognize teachers who go beyond
the textbook to incorporate applied geology into their lesson
plan to give students "an appreciation of how one field
of science touches their everyday life."
McKinney, who resides in Sedalia, Colo.,
received a bachelor's degree in geography from the University
of Oregon in 1979, and a master's degree in earth science
from the University of Northern Colorado in 1993.
He has taught earth sciences at Castle Rock
for nine years.
"In my class, students are challenged to
think about what they learn," he said, "and engage in meaningful
assessment activities that motivate them to learn.
"Many of my students will never have another
earth science class in their life," McKinney continued,
"so I feel compelled to teach them as much about our planet
as possible in the nine months they spend with me."
McKinney, a native of Los Angeles, worked
10 years in the construction business before becoming a
teacher. His primary focus at Castle Rock has been "developing
interesting classroom activities that motivate students
to learn," but he also has written a 180-page textbook to
match his curriculum and has been active in a number of
leadership roles at the district level.
McKinney is an avid mountaineer-camper --
two years ago he achieved a "life goal" by reaching the
summit of Cerro Aconcagua, the highest point in the Western
Hemisphere -- and he has been "fascinated by geology since
"My career in education has been an extension
of my interest in geology and the earth as a whole," he
McKinney described himself as "deeply committed
to exposing my students to the wonders of this planet,"
and as a teacher not afraid to "challenge students to think
about their role in the future of our planet.
"I focus on how our modern society is built
with fossil fuels," he added, "and try to create an awareness
in my students of the energy issues that face our planet."
McKinney's students start the school year
by studying earth's history "as told in the sedimentary
and fossil record." Activities and projects include:
- A "jigsaw reading activity" format to help students
learn about fossil fuels and their importance to modern
- A "Dinosaur Symposium," in which over 50 life-sized
dinosaurs are drawn in chalk on the school parking lot,
arranged in a geologic timeline.
- A local geology field trip, in which students learn
about the geology of the Castle Rock area by studying
the sedimentary rocks found around the school. The students
then are "challenged to take their parents on a similar
trip and explain how the rocks that we see in Douglas
County tell a fascinating story of geologic change."
- Projects in astronomy and meteorology.
- A special class in constructing fossil reproductions,
which are then used in a student-operated "Mobile Museum"
that goes to elementary schools to teach younger children
about the fossil record and geologic time.
The award includes $5,000, funded by the
AAPG Foundation. Half of the award money is designated for
use under McKinney's supervision for education purposes
at Castle Rock Middle School; the other half is for his
own personal use.