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Outside the classroom

A day in the life

Outside the classroom

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Students visited the remains of Pompeii, which was completely buried in ash and pumice nearly 2000 years ago.

All fired up about field school


Learning takes place inside our earth sciences classrooms—and beyond. All earth sciences students may have the opportunity to travel to other regions of Canada, including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. In Advanced Field School courses, professors arrange trips to farther-flung regions, such as Chile, California, England, Scotland, or Italy.

Field school courses provide at least 10 days of concentrated teaching and experiential learning in geological field methods. Wherever you roam in your Advanced Field School course, you’ll broaden the range of your experience and knowledge through first-hand observation by visiting a geographic region that may be entirely new to you.

In 2006, Dr. Barrie Clark travelled with the third-year honours students in his Advanced Field School course to southern Italy to learn first-hand about volcanology. Travelling from islands in the Mediterranean to the mainland, the group explored answers to why volcanoes exist, how they work, what materials they produce, how to monitor and predict their activity, and how to lessen the risks they present to people and the places they live.

Students travelling with Dr. Clark went first to Naples, then the Aeolian Islands, and then to Mount Etna—the largest active volcano in Europe—before closing their trip in Rome.

In Naples, students learned about Mount Vesuvius and visited the remains of the town of Pompeii, which was completely buried in ash and pumice in AD 79. At nearby Solfatara, students stepped inside the crater of a recent volcano and learned about fumaroles, or openings in the volcano’s crust that release puffs of steam or smoke. In Sorrento, they examined houses that had been carved right into the town’s pumice-like volcanic deposits.

Off the north coast of Sicily, they observed the volcano Stromboli, called “the lighthouse of the Mediterranean” because it produces a minor eruption every 10 to 15 minutes.

And at Mount Etna, the group began at the base of the volcano, noting rock formations called “pillows” caused by hot lava flowing into cool seawater. Then they climbed to the summit to view the jagged surface of a recent lava flow, as well as a blanket of dark ash lying atop a layer of snow.

(Photo: Dr. Barry Clark)

Getting out and seeing the rocks
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Another year, a group of upper-year students travelled to Romania to look at another kind of volcanoes. These volcanoes don't spew molten rock, however: mud volcanoes are tree-stump sized eruptions of mud, gasses, and water. Find out more about what these students learned in their Advanced Field School course in Romania.

"It's really important to experience what geology is like in other places. Field experience is so crucial."