Creating an Earth science garden for teaching
It has long been recognised that Earth science depends upon field data and experience, often surveyed as the leading reason for why geology students enjoy their degree. Petrologist H.H. Read (1957) sums this up in his famous quote “the best geologist is he who has seen the most rocks”. Earth science gardens are a novel and exciting way to take the field to campus and classroom. Many geoscience educators understand the reality of transferring classroom knowledge to the outdoors.
There are many examples of Earth Science gardens both nationally and internationally, however, most of these follow the format of an outdoor exhibit, typically with disconnected rocks displayed in an informative but largely static way e.g. University of Waterloo, Ontario, CAN or Bush City at Te Papa Museum, Wellington, NZ. In recent times there has been a move to a more interactive mapping area e.g. University of Alberta North Campus, Edmonton, CAN or the award-winning garden at Monash University, Melbourne, AUS. In these types of gardens students are required to solve various geological problems as they would in the field based on the rocks being arranged in a deliberate way. Currently, there is no such type of Earth science garden in New Zealand.
Interactive Earth science gardens provide students with the opportunity to practice and enhance the skills of 3D visualisation, geological relationships and basic field techniques, allowing them to collect a variety of both qualitative and quantitative data which can be further analysed by laboratory methods. Additionally, they can provide outreach opportunities for schools and potential students, and in New Zealand, an innovative way to incorporate the geologically themed regional purakau of Māori to enrich the story.