The students scrambled off the bus and after a required safety speech from a mine employee about rattlesnakes (Iâ€™ve been here about 10 times and never seen one) and getting lost â€¦ they did just that. They become lost in their fishing trip. More than 80% of these students receive free lunch and a group in the back of the bus asked me if we were going to pass through Las Vegas on the way (Las Vegas is well over 300 miles south of here) so watching them picking up hunks of diatomite and splitting the layers with a butter knife was awe inspiring. Students constantly run up to you smiling broadly to show you their â€œcatchâ€. I took turns with various students in shooting video of the goings-on. One student found an especially good specimen that split to show both sides of the same fish. We put it back together and shot video of a student demonstrating how to find fossils â€“ of course the second rock they picked up split to reveal its treasure.
Since we got back we have done research on stickleback fish and fossils, but we also got involved in test prep and all that that entails so just last week we finally got back to brainstorming the scenes that each group will be responsible for in our video â€“ What is a fossil? â€“ What is a 3 spine stickleback? â€“ What is diatomite? â€“ What is a diatom? Etc. When done we will edit it and voila! We have gotten feedback and assistance from biologists at Stanford via email questions (they bring classes to this same mine during the summer so they were blown away that we were making this video). Several years ago the University of Nevada, Reno Geology Department scanned some of our fossils with their scanning electron microscope (it will magnify images up to 300,000 times!) and we will include some of those images in our video â€“ way cool stuff! (Note the photos in my Flickr account displayed on this same web page)
And most importantly it is one of the messiest field studies we do. Little flakes and powdered white diatomite are everywhere â€“ in shoes, pants, pockets, the buses (which we spend 30 minutes cleaning out when we get back) and our classroom. Now letâ€™s hope that the stain of learning doesnâ€™t wash out as easily as the diatomite!
Learning is messy!