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Teacher Background Notes

This section aims to answer just a few of the questions raised within these web pages - questions that might be asked by able students or interested science teachers wishing to gain a clearer idea of how geological processes operate. We hope the answers are helpful.

Firstly though, and probably the most important question, why teach the Rock Cycle?

We live at a time of growing concern about the future of our planet, our over-use of its resources and the increasing threat of global climate change. We can only hope to deal effectively with these threats if we can learn to understand the processes that have maintained the balance of our planetary environment in the past, and how humans are now upsetting that balance. Central to all of the cycles that maintain life on our planet are the processes that recycle the rocks beneath our feet; central to our understanding of our planet’s uncertain future is an understanding of its deep past.

This statement may seem very worthy but it is not, in itself, reasonable justification if the Rock Cycle is seen as being “boring” by students, or “not real science” by some of their teachers. We hope that the content and presentation of this website may help to dispel both of those perceptions. A great deal of scientific study has gone into the development of our present-day knowledge of “how the Earth works”, and an understanding of these processes gives fascinating insights into the nature of the unique planet upon which we live.

That said, teaching any topic in Earth Science has its difficulties. Understanding how Earth processes operate requires students to develop concepts, not only of the world in three dimensions (for example, in trying to imagine what might be going on deep beneath the Earth’s surface), but also of the enormous time-scale (outlined in the pages on Uplift) over which they operate. Indeed, most adults find the latter difficult enough. Whilst geologists happily talk in millions of years, a bit of mental arithmetic should illustrate that barely three-quarters of a million days have passed since the birth of Christ! Gaining a basic grasp of such concepts is not beyond the capability of most students, but we need to be aware that they are not easily understood in full.

Lastly, if one of our roles as science teachers is to motivate and encourage the potential scientists of the future, it is worth pointing out that there is currently a shortage of qualified geologists in the UK, despite the fact that the subject offers a lucrative, exciting and well-travelled career.
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