San Jacinto College believes it is important for students to get real-life, hands-on experience in every subject. The study of Earth's history and its rocks and minerals can be quite tuff to bring into the classroom.
Passionate geology professors like John-Franklin Dzuryak take their classrooms to all of the action so students can learn and appreciate the world around them without taking it for granite.
Dzuryak is a frequent visitor to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and NASA's Johnson Space Center and takes his students there on field trips every year. He strives to inspire students and show them how geology is all around them.
"Many of our students have never left the country, let alone Texas," he said. "Taking students on trips to JSC, HMNS, and especially camping, hiking, and fossil hunting will expose them to new experiences and discoveries."
Speaking of discoveries, on past fossil hunting trips, Dzuryak's students have made discoveries of their own.
"The best closest place is a railroad bridge over a river outside of College Station, Texas," Dzuryak said. "There my students found ancient sea creature fossils such as clams, snails, and shark teeth. It showed them that the environment has changed from being underwater 40 million years ago to above water and dry today. It's exciting for students to uncover fossils of their own and take them home after the trip."
Dzuryak added that understanding geology on a practical level can also stem from natural disasters and the effect they have on our everyday lives.
"After Hurricane Harvey, my fellow geology professor, Liana Boop, developed a new signature assignment for our physical geology classes," he said. "Students pick a location and identify any risk of flooding because after the storm we were inundated with students asking if their homes were going to be okay."
While most students who take geology courses at San Jacinto College do not plan to major in the field, Dzuryak says that a few of his students did go on to pursue geology careers.
"I have had several students over the years go on to major in geology. We still stay in touch to this day, and I enjoy looking at their field trip pictures on social media," he said.
From collecting rocks and minerals as a child to building an augmented reality sandbox with a Student Success Initiative grant from the San Jacinto College Foundation, Dzuryak has a long-standing apatite for geology and teaching. His education and teaching career have taken him to beautiful geologic sites with rich histories. Some of his favorite places include Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park.
"By visiting them in that order, you can touch and see the history of the Earth and life from billions of years ago through today," Dzuryak said.
So if you're driving around campus and are lucky enough to spot a car with a "FOSSILS"
license plate, just smile and wavellite. You just met everyone's favorite geology professor, John-Franklin Dzuryak.