Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Proposed Course by Nick Chidlaw:-

"Geological Connections Using Hand Specimens"

Sandi Shallcross has forwarded this to me. Sounds rather interesting.

Dear All,
I have been very pleased with the interest and availability shown in recent years of the course format ‘Geological Connections using Hand Specimens’, catering for those studying geology both formally and informally. Three such courses have been run to-date, the most recent of which was provided primarily for OU Earth Science students.  
This particular course format not only develops hand specimen identification skills, but also knowledge of the geological 
connections between the specimens. As those who have attended these courses in the past will know, it’s hard work, but it develops your powers of practical analysis and geological reasoning!  In practise, attendees enjoy the intellectual challenges involved. Details of the purpose, aim and structure of the course are given below.
Level of interest / availability
I am happy to run a ‘Connections’ course again this autumn for both those studying geology informally, as well as those on formal courses, if 
enough people can attend for viability.
The dates of this proposed indoor Connections course is:
                                                                    Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th November 2016
Deadline for minimum fees to be received fees to ensure the course is viable:
                                                                      Saturday 17th September 
Please note that:
  • The course would involve analysis of a different set of specimens and geological connections to those used on previous Connections courses run to-date. If you have attended any of these past courses, you will be seeing new specimens and connections
  • It is not necessary for you to have attended any of the previous courses in order to successfully complete the one offered this year
Many thanks for your attention to this proposal. 
If you have any queries, do let me know.
Hope to hear from you soon.

Course proposal

The central purpose is to develop in attendees an awareness of the connections which are found in the geological record between rocks, minerals and fossils. Such connections occur as geological processes take place: for example, certain rocks, minerals and fossils characterize the deposits laid down in a shallow, clear tropical sea; other rock and mineral types are indicative of thermal metamorphism around a felsic magma intrusion. Furthermore, within each process, it may be possible to discern an order of formation of these rocks, minerals and fossils over time : so, for example, with thermal metamorphism around a felsic intrusion, the unaffected rock into which the felsic magma was intruded was clearly present first, before it was metamorphosed by the intruding magma, the latter finally cooling and crystallizing out to form solid rock.          

The aim of the course would be to achieve the course’s purpose by attendees analyzing and identifying hand specimens provided, then using the evidence accumulated from these analyses, to connect the specimens to several geological processes as stated by the tutor . Handout materials would be provided and consulted by attendees to enable this process of systematic ‘inductive’ reasoning. I would also be on hand to see how each attendee is progressing, and to provide guidance as and when required. Attendees may wish to work on their own, or if preferred, in small groups. Discussion between attendees would be encouraged. A list of suitable reference books would be provided in advance, so that attendees may bring copies they might have / borrow themselves, for use on the course. Copies of some of these books would also be brought by the tutor, for attendees to use.  

An informal lecture by the tutor using powerpoint slides and whiteboard would be given in the last 2 hours of the course, in order to provide attendees with correct identifications of all hand specimens, and their allocation to each stated process. Examples of each process from the geological record will be described, for illustration.

On completion of the course, attendees would have a new / better appreciation of the set of geological processes focused on, and the legacy of these processes as manifest in the rock record. This should prove useful in the future, when attendees may be studying geology in the field and recognise the types of geological connections they have studied; equally, when reading about geological processes in books, the experience on the course of handling specimens and learning how they may be connected through such processes, should prove helpful in understanding.    

Items you would need to bring
An A4 pad of drawing paper, pens (including a black one that produces a good strong line for completing your drawings), pencils, rubber, a ‘copper’ coin, a steel pen knife, a hand lens (x10 magnification), metric ruler. If you can obtain some dilute (10%) hydrochloric or acetic acid, a steel file, and a magnet, they would be useful (but not essential). Good light is of paramount importance in doing this work – bringing a desk lamp for your own use would be very useful to avoid eyestrain if ambient light is poor. Hand lenses can be purchased from opticians, or specialized geological suppliers e.g. ‘Geosupplies’ tel. 0114 245 5746.      

Details and length of the course
The course would focus on commonly-occurring geological processes, with a total of 16 hand specimen types provided to allocate to these 4 processes. In many cases more than one specimen of each type would be available to study. These 4 processes would be stated at the start of the course, and the number of specimen types to be allocated to each process would also be given . Some specimens would be allocated to more than one process. The task attendees then would have is to:

·                 firstly analyse systematically each specimen they choose, as on the hand specimen course(s) they have attended previously, and come to a conclusion(s) as to what it is.
·                 secondly look through the handouts / books provided, for background information, and begin to consider which of the 4 stated geological processes each specimen is likely to belong to.  
·                 thirdly, through accumulation of data on all the specimens analysed, work out for each of the geological processes, any order of formation over time that may be discernible, of the specimens analysed.

There would be nothing misleading built in to this inductive procedure: the course aims to develop in attendees good observation, logical thinking, and confidence.

Using 16 hand specimen types, I propose that an average of 30 minutes is spent on analyzing each specimen. This would total 8 hours; time would then be needed to decide on the connections between the specimens studied and the 4 stated processes, and any order in time these specimens may be connected together. The time for this I propose would be 30 minutes on each of the 4 stated processes, totalling 2 hours. Together with the summary 2 hour lecture, this amounts of a course of 12 hours in length , similar to that used on the hand specimens courses. Like the latter, it is proposed that the course is run on 1 weekend: a Saturday and Sunday, using 6 hours on each day. The 6 hours on each day would be 10.00 am – 1.00 pm, and 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm, with a 1 hour lunch break between.

It is important to note that there would be no pressure for attendees to work to the average of 1 specimen per 30 minutes. Everybody would work at their own pace quality is far more important than quantityIt would be far better to analyse a lower number of specimens well, and make some well-reasoned connections (where evident in their time order) to the 4 geological processes, than many more poorly-analysed specimens with rushed and poorly-reasoned conclusions. The informal lecture towards the end of the course will allow all attendees to know the correct identifications of all specimens, how they are connected, and which of these groups of connected specimens are allocated, in their time order where evident, to which of the 4 processes.    

Venue for the course
It is proposed that if the course becomes viable, it is based at The Chantry, Thornbury, in South Gloucestershire. This is an excellent venue I have used for a number of indoor courses before. Details of the venue and its location can be seen at

Proposed date
Saturday 12th / Sunday 13th November 2016

Tuition fee per person
£42.00 per person

Payment of tuition fee
Cheque payable to me sent to: 8, Silver Street, Dursley, Glos. GL11 4ND. Bank Trans can also be arranged – let me know if you wish to do this.

Number of course attendees for viability
Minimum of 10 enrolments or fee equivalent. Maximum of 20.  

Fees Deadline for viability

Minimum of 10 enrolments to be received by:

Saturday 17th September

Should the minimum of enrolments not be reached, the course will be cancelled and fees received will be returned shortly afterwards to those who have sent them in. If the minimum of fees is received, those who have enrolled will be notified that the course is to run; enrolments will be able to continue up to 2 weeks before the course runs, i.e. up to 29th October.  

If the course becomes viable, I will advise attendees who are travelling beyond commuting distance of sources of information for them to book accommodation suitable for their own preferences and budget.   

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