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TESEP: Science teachers in the field

26 Oct 2015

The Minerals Council of Australia is a sponsor of the Teacher Earth Science Education Program (TESEP). TESEP offers teachers around Australia resources and professional development opportunities to enhance their ability to teach critical earth science subjects. 

Article for geological societies Sept 2015

Science Teachers in the Field

TESEP Cape Liptrap, Victorian Fieldtrip & International Conference, Melbourne (11-14 Sept 2015)

In September, the Teacher Earth Science Education Programme (TESEP), supported by many geological societies and some government, university and corporate partner funds, including the Geological  Society, was able to give 30 Science Teachers of Excellence, from across Australia, the chance to learn from experienced industry geologists at some world-class field exposures in Gippsland, Victoria. Three days in the field were followed by Teachers’ Day at an international conference in Melbourne (AAPG SEG 2015 ICE).

At Teachers’ Day, 8 industry professionals ranging from a geotechnician; oil/gas, mining and environmental geologists; geophysicist; palaeontologist and board director spent several hours sharing their stories of work and career choices, which had begun with a secondary school Science and Mathematics background.

Seismic for the Classroom was demonstrated using government & industry-donated geophones. Teachers took geophones, career booklets (AusIMM) and TESEP Plate Tectonics posters back to their schools. Teachers enjoyed plenary sessions, Exhibition Hall, technical sessions and meeting industry and university geologists.

The teacher group was dominated by young female Science teachers and a few senior male and female teachers. This demographic reflected the athleticism needed to get down steep slopes and rock-scramble at Cape Liptrap field exposures. The three days of fieldtrip went smoothly and to plan, with no incidents or injuries and the satellite phone taken for emergencies was not used.

The 30 teachers from Qld, NSW, ACT, Tas, Vic, SA (including 6 TESEP state coordinators) were guided on the 3-day Gippsland field trip by presenters structural geologist Dr Kevin Hill (OilSearch) and sedimentologist Dr Richard Lovell (ex-ExxonMobil) and assisted by TESEP Coordinator presenters. The team made an earlier reconnaissance trip to the field sites and scoped out the fieldtrip specifically for teachers. Using high-quality industry workbook material, generously supplied by Dr Kevin Hill, TESEP Executive Officer, Greg McNamara, compiled a hands-on field workbook including many questions for teachers to take back to their classrooms. Sites visited were:

Walkerville – Waratah Fault, historic lime kilns, Devonian-Ordovician marl and limestone and Cambrian volcanics and metamorphics

Wonthaggi State Coal Mine – underground mine tour of this historic mine with a veteran coal miner

Cape Liptrap – turbidites and deepwater sedimentary  facies with colonial coral fossils, folded & faulted by Tasman Fold Belt orogenic movements

Inverloch - Cretaceous dinosaur dig site; palaeoenvironment/ sedimentology of coastal outcrops and visit to the Dinosaur Museum at Inverloch – tour of the site and museum was led by Mike Cleeland from Dinosaur Dreaming.

Teacher Feedback

A TESEP state coordinator wrote “Thanks again for a wonderful experience.  I spoke to the Head Teacher from East Hills Girls High School this morning.  She commented that the teachers had returned to school extremely motivated about earth and environmental science and raving about their weekend.”


A teacher wrote “I would like to commend all those involved in organising the recent TESEP Field Trip in Victoria.  It was obviously a well thought and well-planned event, and was of great benefit to all those involved. Apart from the opportunity to see some unique geology, even more importance was the chance to spend time with teachers that share a passion for earth science.” 


A TESEP state coordinator wrote “This trip was an excellent example of how TESEP can engage with a broad range of interested teachers to deliver an informative and memorable experience. I am confident that everyone completed the trip feeling much more confident with their understanding of a wide variety of geological concepts. The location was spectacular, the geology varied and able to keep the teachers engaged, and of course the weather was absolutely fantastic!

The opportunity to attend the AAPG-SEG ICE was an event that none of them would have experienced… to hear from industry personnel their individual stories added a real human dimension to the whole four days of "rocky stories".

Those that attended my demonstration of remote sensing through a classroom seismograph saw the benefit of how hugely expensive technologies could be shown in an easily understood method that can be done with basic equipment in the classroom.”

TESEP Chairperson, Jill Stevens, said “It was great to speak to an excited year-12 Science teacher, who said that this was the best PD she had ever done - so well organized.”

A teacher said “Best geology weekend ever. I will have more enthusiasm in teaching Geology (after doing this PD). I could influence about 600 students (yr 7-12).”

Another reported “I could pass this experience and knowledge on to 10s of teachers and 100s of students.”

One 7-10 Science/Maths teacher said “The fieldtrip was amazing … so much of my Tertiary studies was made real here, (albeit 20years later). Kevin and Richard’s knowledge was presented at a very appropriate level.”

“I welcomed the opportunity to discuss applications with teachers from other states.”

“The field exposures were fantastic.”

See attached photos.

This type of extraordinary learning experience for teachers, outside of the national, one-day professional development PD workshops that TESEP generally runs, was only possible through the financial support of TESEP partner societies PESA, ASEG, MCA (Vic), AIG, AusIMM, AGC and GSA. Thanks to ExxonMobil for staff time in field workbook preparation. Thanks also to Velseis and Geoscience Australia for geophones.

While the state coordinators were in Victoria, a TESEP Coordinators’ Forum was held on 13 Sept 2015, Melbourne.

Key special projects on the TESEP coordinators wish list are:

  1. Rock Doctor rock kit checks and compilation of 35-piece new Rock & Mineral Kits for schools without any kit – Schools either have no rock and mineral kit or ones that are incomplete and inadequate, Tasmania has a Rock Doctor program that has assisted in improving their kits. TESEP needs a collective of AusIMM, MCA, GSA, PESA geologists to run this and expenses funded via TESEP general partner funding – a TESEP special project through 2015-1017.
  2. Teacher mentoring (a day at the classroom or with students at field sites), cost $440/day/TESEP presenter, (WA & SA already doing this) – a TESEP aim during 2015-2017 national curriculum roll-out (member society geologists could assist)
  3. Hands-on Exercises  - develop more EES integrated science exercises e.g. remote sensing, basic mapping & map-reading – a TESEP special project
  4. Case Studies  - on geological locations across Australia (with student worksheet questions – to supplement each of the chapters in the Year 11-12 EES Textbook (each 4 to 6 x A4 pages in length, including short text descriptions of photos, maps, cross sections, core  images, seismic, remote sensing, fossils, rock exposures,thin sections etc) -  a TESEP special project (see website for some uploaded examples)



If you would like to discuss how you could assist TESEP,

please contact Jill Stevens  or Greg McNamara .  


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