Teaching school students about geophysics

The School of Earth Sciences of the University of Bristol actively supports and encourages work experience placements for secondary school students. It consists a of one-week work experience programme with 12 places that are awarded by a competitive selection process. The candidates are chosen in local schools. Activities include lectures, laboratory exercises and experiments on a range of Earth science topics as well as a fieldtrip to see some local geology of interest. Priority is given to students who have a genuine interest in studying an Earth science subject at University. The main objective of this programme is to give the students a broad vision of the topics taught in an Earth sciences cursus.

One day of this week was dedicated to geophysics, including a lecture held by Prof Michael Kendall about the use of geophysics to investigate the shallow subsurface and the deep Earth.

The second half of the day the students took part in an outdoor practical workshop. The students were introduced to some of the main geophysics equipments and methods, such as seismic, ground penetrating radar and electromagnetic. They were able to directly handle and use the geophysics equipment in order to better understand how they work to identify structures in the shallow underground.

The students were also able to visualise the data recorded on the field. They took part to discussions about the meaning of what they measured and elaborate some preliminary analysis of the data recorded. The students have then linked what they learned during the lecture with the in-situ measurements they performed using various tools.

The students had the opportunity to ask questions about geophysics in general, possible job opportunities or what it means to be a student. We also explained our specific research area.

On a more personal point of view, we present our work in the frame of the CREEP project. Thomas explained how he use seismic techniques to image fractures and cracks in the shallow crust, and what that can tell us in terms of permeability in geological reservoirs. That allows us to highlight some concrete outcomes we can infer from geophysics experiments and its potential use on an academic or industrial basis. Philipp described his CREEP project, explaining how salt deformation can affect the way seismic way waves travel through salt bodies. By pointing out industrial applications, like the storage of nuclear waste deposits in salt caverns, the students had examples about for what the methods they learned, can be used for. This also highlighted the broad and exciting spectrum geophysics offers.