BOONE, N.C. — Students, faculty and staff in Appalachian State University’s Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences are giving regional K–12 students the opportunity to step into the shoes of a geologist, a paleontologist, a volcanologist, or even a deep ocean explorer through the department’s Picture Yourself as an Earth Scientist (PYES) mobile photo booth.
The booth is used in the department’s outreach programs to raise awareness for geoscience careers and the importance of earth science literacy.
Marta Toran, the department’s K–12 outreach coordinator, has received a $5,700 grant from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) to upgrade the existing PYES photo booth. She said the project is part of a larger initiative to promote geoscience careers among underrepresented groups in North Carolina.
Citing geoscience scholars, Toran said, of all STEM disciplines, geosciences are the least diverse, due in part to the lack of early exposure to geoscience fields and misperceptions about job opportunities.
“Our Picture Yourself as an Earth Scientist (PYES) outreach activity directly addresses these issues by targeting middle and high school students from underrepresented groups to advertise how a geoscience career can provide a good income while ameliorating environmental and societal issues,” she said.
Toran said the new, “high-tech” version of the booth, available in fall 2019, will include a green screen, an iPad and various props — such as tools and safety equipment — to educate students about geoscience career paths by placing them, visually, within these roles.
“The green screen setup is accompanied by a table with hands-on activities modeling tasks geoscientists carry out (e.g., creating a cast of a fossil specimen, analyzing an ice core or using environmental probes to determine water quality). Participants walk away with a ‘souvenir’ — a photo of themselves as a geoscientist — and print information about geoscience career paths in either Spanish or English,” she explained.
Appalachian’s PYES outreach program has been featured at regional schools, including the Appalachian Academy at Middle Fork, as well as libraries, community centers and learning centers such as The Children’s Playhouse in Boone. The photo booth has also been used in Appalachian’s Geobago — a mobile earth and environmental science lab that brings the geosciences to students in the High Country.
Dr. William Armstrong, assistant professor of glaciology in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, is collaborating with Toran on the project, and several Appalachian geological and environmental sciences majors will help operate the photo booth in outreach programs in the 2019–20 academic year.
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About the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences
Located in Western North Carolina, Appalachian State University provides the perfect setting to study geological and environmental sciences. The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences provides students with a solid foundation on which to prepare for graduate school or build successful careers as scientists, consultants and secondary education teachers. The department offers six degree options in geology and two degree options in environmental science. Learn more at https://earth.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.