AAPG, along with several geological societies nationwide, has recognized that its membership ranks are becoming quite mature, and recently has begun making tremendous efforts to recruit more and more young professionals. These young professionals are being encouraged by earth science professional societies to become more active and serve on various committees and volunteer to run for office.
As their membership ages, these societies have recognized that, in order to remain vibrant, young members must be added to their rolls.
But what about the young professionals of the next generation? Where are they currently? We'll find them in elementary, middle and high schools. And we should be asking ourselves what we're doing to nurture, encourage and steer them toward a career in geology.
Earth science is taught in second through fourth grades in Kentucky — but many of those teaching earth science do not have a background in the subject. After completing these grades, students have little contact with the subject, even though earth science touches their daily lives from the time they're born until the day they die; everything done in life is somehow related to earth science, and a good understanding of it helps them appreciate and relate to the world around them. Earth science teaches children more than just the basics of geology; it teaches them to make observations, collect information and use logical thinking to make interpretations and reach conclusions. These skills will be important in every part of their lives.
Geologists will play an increasingly important role in the future, and they must assume the vital role of encouraging and fostering in young students an understanding of earth processes, while steering them to appreciate the wonders of nature. Including earth science in students' education stimulates and encourages their natural inquisitiveness, and provides them with the opportunity to form valuable ideas, skills and potential career choices. They will become more interested in new technologies and ideas that in the future can encourage and inspire research and development.
Geologists must also engage parents in a positive manner, so that they too will get excited and inspire and mentor their children.
We must also work to educate the public. Over the years, the Kentucky Geological Survey, the University of Kentucky and the Geological Society of Kentucky have worked tirelessly with the youth and teachers of the commonwealth and the public at large.
As members of the AAPG House of Delegates, we must ask ourselves how we're going to use our talents to develop and enrich the curiosity of the next generation of AAPG members. You might have read an article in the December 2016 Explorer about my grandson. It described some of the ways I've engaged in the fun of geology with my son, my grandchildren and other young people in the community.
A few ways to inform the public about earth science would be writing newspaper articles, setting up displays and making presentations at libraries. (Accompanying images can be viewed in the Image Gallery to the right.)
You could also:
- Volunteer to judge district, regional and state science fairs.
- Mentor students with their earth science projects. Talk with them on their level and give them time to explore topics and ask questions. This will encourage their curiosity.
- Encourage students to participate in the Junior Ranger Program at national parks. This will help them learn more about the mysteries of the parks.
- Organize visits to national and state parks though local geological societies. Instill a sense of wonder by showing them your own fascination with science.
- Help students start a rock, mineral, and fossil collection by showing them how to find the specimens themselves in outcrops. See how many varieties of rocks and fossils they can find and identify.
- Participate at rock and gem clubs and Fish and Wildlife and Conservation camps. Make learning science fun by relating it to their daily activities.
- Advise and provide guidance to 4H geology clubs to get ready for competition at the state fair by showing them how to construct display boxes, take them on field trips to collect rocks, minerals and fossils, and show them how to properly mount and identify the specimens.
- Work with scouting groups to earn geology badges.
- Visit schools and make presentations, and set up displays and demonstrations. Involve children with a hands-on introduction to science.
- Host fossil and mineral digs through your local geological society.
- Organize and promote an earth science open house on Earth Day.
- Work with earth science teachers by supporting their efforts and making materials available to them.
- Help organize fun family geologic field trips.
- Encourage lab managers to teach students about proper technique to prepare water samples for testing.
- Collect water samples with students that will be tested in a lab.
- Demonstrate dye tracing from a swallow hole to a spring in a karst area.
(Editor's note: Patrick J. Gooding is an HoD delegate for the Geological Society of Kentucky.)