Traveling abroad is exciting and filled with opportunities to experience different cultures, meet new people and see historical places. But for those who are more in tune with nature and long for hiking trails, blue jean days and a deep sleep brought on by physical challenges met, try exploring the American West. Every year Billy Morris takes a group of students to Wyoming for a hands-on learning experience in geology.
First stop is Casper to study ancient, pre-Cambrian rocks, minerals and fossils. Morris chooses field locations on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Students collect fossils that they find on this field trip.
Then they travel to Yellowstone National Park to study volcanism and hydrothermal features. And who wouldn’t want to visit Yellowstone? Next is the Grand Tetons, where they look at volcanism, stream processes and mountain-building. In southwest Wyoming they collect fish fossils from a lake. And there’s lots of hiking – three hikes, in fact. And those aren’t just Sunday strolls. One is a seven-mile trek.
Like a most of the study-abroad trips, many of Morris’ students have never been to a different region of the country. Some have never left Georgia. So their awareness of America’s diversity of people, land and culture is heightened. Some are in awe. Some just become increasingly aware of the enormous expansion of time, which they see in the rocks. Some say they’ll never look at rocks the same way again.
“So much of science lies in observation,” said Morris. “And in our society filled with technology and sedentary entertainment, so many people just don’t go outside. These trips are a good way to get students moving and looking around them.”
Morris has been with Georgia Highlands since 1994, and he took his first group of students to Wyoming in 1997, 15 years ago. He’s been doing it ever since.
Looking at the beauty of Western landscapes could inspire the most sedentary.