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Kids get hands-on with geology

Ferguson Township Elementary fifth graders Tanner Ligetti, far left, Owen Yerka, center, and Zac Meddeb take measurements during an experiment with the stream table during the Shake Rattle Rocks event on Friday, Jan 6, 2017 at the Penn State Deike Building.
Ferguson Township Elementary fifth graders Tanner Ligetti, far left, Owen Yerka, center, and Zac Meddeb take measurements during an experiment with the stream table during the Shake Rattle Rocks event on Friday, Jan 6, 2017 at the Penn State Deike Building. psheehan@centredaily.com

Jessica Bruce’s fifth-grade class at Ferguson Township Elementary School spent Friday morning learning about geology from people who know a thing or two about earth sciences.

They studied fossil,s learned about convection and saw why rivers, streams and creeks can sometimes flood.

About 450 students participate in geology activities at Penn State

They were among about 450 other fifth-grade students from the State College Area School District who participated in a field trip to Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences for its department of geoscience’s annual Shake, Rattle & Rock event.

Bruce said the field trip for her class was a follow-up to a recent geology unit her 20 students studied in class.

But for the department, the three-day event had a bigger meaning.

We study detailed science and sit here with microscopes, but to see the engagement in some of the local youth is a pretty rewarding thing

Tim Bralower, professor

“We study detailed science and sit here with microscopes, but to see the engagement in some of the local youth is a pretty rewarding thing,” Professor Tim Bralower said. “We specifically work with fifth-graders because they’re at an age where they can start to understand the impact of it (geology) on their lives and hopefully become more interested in science.”

Bralower has been a part of the event for 14 of its 15 years.

The goal, he said, is to create activities for students that are quick, send a good message and are relevant.

“They have limited facilities in school, so this allows them to be hands-on with some of the processes of Earth,” Bralower said.

At one station, doctoral candidate Max Christie used a stream table to help explain the river system to the students.

In his experiment, he simulated a storm by increasing the amount of water that flowed through the stream table.

“We can give examples of rivers like the Mississippi and how the Army Corp continue to dredge the river because it wants to change course, and from those kinds of examples we can explain why we do that and why that happens,” he said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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