Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Teacher travels the earth

By Gina Buccino
Enquirer contributor

LEBANON - For Sue Henry, teaching earth science extends far beyond her classroom at Berry Middle School.

On her travels she collects items that her students can touch, view, and study.

Mrs. Henry, who teaches eighth-grade science, spent two weeks during the summer studying Hawaii's volcanoes. Through Project LAVA (Learning About Volcanic Activity), Mrs. Henry observed the activity of Kilauea, which has erupted 50 times in the past 100 years.

Her trip will enable students to learn about the chemistry of rocks, atmospheric pollution, topographic maps and calculating the rate at which a volcano's plate moves.

For Leanne Kaufholz, 13, looking at green sand under a microscope was interesting. She said: "You get to look at different stuff, and you find out about things found all over the world."

Students learn facts such as how a rock that cools quickly from the lava will have a more shiny, crystal look to it than other rocks - and how it's possible for vegetation to grow back within 10 years after a volcanic eruption.

"You get to use your senses by seeing it," said Josh Howard, an eighth-grade Berry student. "You can learn about the actual facts about the earth, volcanoes."

Lesson plans are part of the course by the U.S.Geologic Survey, with activities students can do with the computer, weighing rocks, and viewing them under the microscope.

Student Alexis Neuhausser said she can learn more by looking at a rock under a microscope and touching it than simply seeing a photo in a textbook.

While some of Mrs. Henry's excursions are paid by grants and fellowships, she has paid for some trips herself. She began taking the trips because there were times students had questions that she did not have all the answers to, and she felt taking the trips would make her a better teacher.

She has been to the Bahamas, Virginia, Florida, the Jersey shore, the Ozarks, and to Ohio strip mines. She hopes to go to Iceland to study volcanoes.

She also hopes that the materials she brings back will cause students to consider geology as a career.

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