Brachiopodes and 高陵 in Tomsk, Siberia

Participants of the Youth Parliament in Tomsk, Siberia are conducting projects related to the environment and health issues. Yesterday I conducted a presentation for these high school students about my research in the Bronx. Today they invited me to the Camp Garden (Лагерный сад) to learn about one of their project educating people about the geological history of this urban area and preserving unique rock formations. Everyone in the city knows the Camp Garden, a gorgeous park with a war memorial on the hill overlooking the river. However, few people are familiar with interesting geological formations downhill near the river, which are sometimes being neglected, destroyed and trashed. Last summer the Youth Parliament has installed interpretation signs explaining the geology of this are, and next year students are going to build metal steps for people to safely explore rock outcrops.

Students gathering near the eternal flame on the monument’s pedestal in the Camp Garden

Few people dare to explore the area down a steep slope

Near a huge kaolinite mudstone. Kao-ling (高陵) in Chinese means “high hill”

Interpretation signs installed by the previous cohort of students

A 330 million year old brachiopod found by students nearby

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Environmental education in Siberia

In Siberia it’s a rare event to see 200 environmental educators in one room. Last week I visited the annual environmental education conference organized by the Department of Environmental Protection of Tomsk Region, Siberia. Some guest presenters from Moscow were trying to teach Siberian educators about environmental curriculum based on one-way transfer of knowledge. In contrast, a number of environmental educators from Tomsk and other Siberian cities presented their education projects engaging students in hands-on and inquiry-based learning. For example, a group of Tomsk students in an after-school program have developed and installed interpretation signs near a natural monument, which represents a riverside rock outcrop. To develop signs, students had to talk to scientists and handle contradictory information about ancient cultures that used these rock formations for settlements and to hunt mammoths. By installing signs, students are trying to inform people about the natural and social history of this place and preserve this urban natural site, which has sometimes been neglected.