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The blossoming of ideas

Motivation for the projects

I am currently thinking about how I can implement my passion for geology into a project idea. Since I started studying geology back in my A levels, I have been passionate about this field. I have always felt that not many people knew about it and whenever I would tell them about something that I had learned they would respond in a very positive manner. Then they would ask me what I studied, to my surprise they didn’t know what it was, thinking it was just geography or that it is “just about rocks”. I realised pretty quickly that before I knew about it, I also had the same misconceptions.

When I started university, I discovered more people that were equally enthusiastic about geology and I realised that I was in the right place. I always thought since geosciences are so interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, that there is something there for everyone. So why on earth were the year groups at such a big university so small?*  I always thought to myself.

Early in my first year, I got involved with outreach like the Volcano day which was being held at the Holyrood park ranger centre. I also went to Prestonfield primary school to teach a few primary 5 classes.

The contrast between teaching the general public and teaching primary school children was stark. Many of the P5 students were not really interested, nor could they fully appreciate the information we were giving them. I felt that although a handful of them were engaged the majority were just happy that there were guests in the classroom and that they could do small science experiments under our supervision. Personally, although having enjoyed the experience, I preferred interacting with an audience that was more mature. I felt that primary school pupils (especially early years) do not benefit from the types of over specialised outreach. Personally, I think outreach for earlier years needs to be more generic with small factettes of specificity to try and engage a higher percentage of the classroom.

*I slowly learnt that people especially in later school years were not being exposed to any geoscience outreach. Moreover, geology (a great gateway to other geoscience fields) wasn’t being taught anymore at Highers or Advanced Highers and only in a select few schools in the rest of the UK, one of which I was lucky enough to attend.


Idea  1: Geological walks

Often when people come to visit me in Edinburgh, I always give them a guided tour around Arthurs Seat and the surrounding area, talking about the geological processes at play, the bigger picture that describes what and why we see what we see. I thought why don’t I just do a guided geological tour around Edinburgh and the local area? Because of the current COVID restrictions, this would have to be socially distanced but this not a particularly big hurdle to overcome. This would be a great way to get people outside and thinking critically about science that we can easily observe with our eyes. My good friend Nils who is also doing this course is interested in working together with me on this project and would be a great addition. We could guide different tours on different days or even guide on tours together and have a back and forth providing the audience with a dynamic narrative that would be hard not to engage with.


How can I reach the target audience?

Advertising through visitor centres would have been an ideal way to advertise during non-COVID times. If we are back to “normal” by next year it will be possible to have tourism again in Edinburgh during the spring. However, preparing for the worst-case scenario is a wise idea when dealing with uncertain times. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on targeting Facebook groups that focus on outdoor activities.


Idea 2: Teaching a skill or topic to pre-university students

My passion for teaching and promoting geology can be combined into a project consisting of short taught sessions or TED-esque talks for pre-university students (Highers and Advanced Highers). This idea, which could involve an outdoor component if COVID plays nicely, is most likely to be taking place online. Students would learn how to use industry-standard software like QGIS (freeware), understand how to make scientific sketches and other useful skills that will enable them to flesh out their UCAS application while also introducing many students to geoscience.


How can I reach the target audience?

Contacting schools directly would be the ideal way to reach as many students as possible. Although many of them will have a strong online presence they’re unlikely to follow any pages that would promote these kinds of talks, therefore we need to reach this audience via their teachers. Teachers will have a vested interest in providing extracurricular activities to boost their student’s UCAS application form.  The limiting factor is how many schools can be targeted.

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