Destination Science

There’s a cartoon making its way around the internet – the standard outlets – Facebook, Pinterest etc. that highlights what “normal people see on vacation” and how “scientists view their vacation.”  It has scientific subtitles for all natural objects in the otherwise tranquil setting. My sister pointed this out to me at one point and proceeded to tell me this was “EXACTLY what it was like when we went places growing up”  There are people who see things like the missing cartoon character – who immediately begin to contemplate how this location or that picture or whatever experience can be worked into science lessons.

I must confess—I have alwIMG_3044ays been trying to subversively bring science into trips –no matter how old I was.  Whether it was visiting Crystal Caves and hearing about stalagmites and stalactites at the age of ten to skydiving and thinking the video of me on a tandem jump and the photographer falling at the same rate would be a cool example to demonstrate free fall to my most recent adventure in receiving scuba certification and asking the instructor what type of fish were swimming around the different formations.  I could go on and on with examples of how I brought science into scenic destinations.

You know Albuquerque, NM 049the type of person I’m speaking about and you probably even know the look, the puzzlement that crosses their face when they see something and immediately begin thinking – “way cool, that is a perfect example ….” and you can finish the sentence. Perhaps there is a support group for people like me – although – I am thinking that many of the people I would meet there to support me would be current friends and colleagues, as well as, new people that would be so much fun to hang around with since they like to travel and like science!!!!

This month’s Leaders Letter (see here for archives and signing up) highlights the use of national or state parks as potential destinations to explore with students and bring in science or history or nature exploration.  Making a destination fun and exciting is important but there is always a fine line between the groan that learning may take place and the exclamation that vacation has begun.  The national parks offer many educationally fun and engaging activities and is one destination to pursue science but not the only one.  With a little imagination and a lot of inquiry, most locations you find yourself at have the opportunity to become a destination for science.  As many of us science travelers head out this summer, this is an opportunity to share locations and destinations that may be on a planned route but not posted as destination science spots. So this month’s questions are:

  • What are your favorite destinations that were able to be worked into a science lesson and what was it?
  • What location would you recommend to someone travelling this summer and why?

And may you enjoy your travels and scientific discoveries this summer!

Carlsbad Caverns 066


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4 Responses to Destination Science

  1. Bev DeVore-Wedding says:

    Yellowstone National Park! Hotspots, plate tectonics, continental drift (i.e. Snake River Plain); Island arcs; volcanism; earthquakes; geothermal systems; microbiology of thermophiles; biodiversity; predator prey cycles; grizzly behavior; survival of fitness (Book called Death in Yellowstone by Lee H Whittlesey; history (related to science!); and as you can see I could keep going!
    I have also used Geology of the National Parks (by Ann G. Harris, Esther Tuttle, Sherwood D. Tuttle) for students to explore other national parks.

  2. Carla Billups says:

    I agree with Bev in the post above. There is nothing like Yellowstone! I also traveled the Upper Missouri River via canoe on the trail of Lewis and Clark. The integration of social studies and science is huge on this type of trek. We traveled from just below the final falls of Great Falls, MT and went down towards Fort Benton. Just traveling around the Great Falls area is amazing and to realize how L/C mapped this journey, identified new species, and interacted with the indigenous people is quite amazing. We traveled with a historian and he read the journals to us at different spots along the river.

  3. Donna Governor says:

    Nova Scotia! Signal Hill where Marconi sent his first trans-Atlantic wireless transmission. The Aspy fault line runs through Cape Bretton where it once was connected to Scotland. I saw pitcher plants where I didn’t expect them and the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck. The best part – the Bay of Fundy with 54 food tides – totally amazing!

  4. Jennifer Day says:

    I started pulling together Yellowstone resources onto my webpage that you all are welcome to explore. It is a work in progress and still needs a lot of redesigning and cleaning up to do) but has a plethora of information.
    Here are some of the things included:
    Trip Area Planners
    Tour By Car
    Stores & Gift Shops
    Visitors’ Centers & Research
    Museums & Libraries
    Atlas Pages
    Ecological Misconceptions
    Yellowstone Steward Archived Newsletters
    Scientific Reviews
    Video Resources
    Yellowstone Science Periodicals
    Geology & Geologic Forces
    Online Books
    Briefings Articles
    Wyoming’s Reports & Publications
    Integrated Resources Management
    History & The Conservation Movement
    Drawing Conclusions Lesson Ideas

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