Sep. 19, 2022


High temperatures and rocky terrains were not a deterrant for the more than 25 dedicated science educators, administrators, geo-educational researchers, and geologists from across the Clark County School District who trekked all over Southern Nevada in search of new ways to help their students understand more about the landscape they live in. 

Rock stars lead the way

Intrepid professors Tina Vo (Teaching & Learning) and Pamela Burnley (Geoscience) joined forces across college boundaries and cultivated GeoPath LEGENDS -- a space where teachers could share their unique passion for earth science and expand their educator skillset. Having worked as a science educator early in her career, Vo “wanted to create a space where experts in teaching methods and experts in geoscience could meet and share their ideas.”

Vo and Burnley were joined by a team of UNLV geoscientists who enthusiastically shared their passion, research and insights into local geological phenomena. Over the course of five days, teachers ventured to various geological sites throughout the valley each morning (to beat the heat), then headed back to campus for lab tours, curriculum development workshops and more. 

Like a long hike in the outdoors, an educator’s career has more than its fair share of twists and  turns. So, taking an active role in sharpening content knowledge and teaching methods keep these community leaders sharp and their students engaged. Dr. Vo knows that the teachers she worked with over the summer continue to teach through trying times and thrive. “[Teachers] knew they and their students were incredibly capable and sought to provide their students with every opportunity. There is resilience in teacher efficacy, there is power in finding a community that can help you foster that. I hope our community can make it stronger while also supporting the teachers who are working to shore theirs up.” 

Teachers were provided with the time, space and resources to leverage local landscapes for their classroom with a unique emphasis on place-based learning that makes earth science more relevant for their students. Each afternoon, educators worked together to develop high-quality curriculum materials leveraging reform-based and inquiry-based teaching methods that promote interactive learning experiences.

Mining potential

Grateful for the generous funding from the National Science Foundation, Vo and Burnham look forward to its next phase – bringing high school students to UNLV’s campus to explore geoscience laboratories with undergraduate peer-mentors and encouraging them to consider geoscience-oriented career paths, whether directly in the field or as future science educators.  

By Kia Cummings