Rock your world with a mountainous understanding of earth science topics!

Each workshop is designed to help you better understand and communicate the geological content presented. You will leave with useful resources to help your students excel in earth science, including interesting classroom materials, outstanding specimen kits, and maybe even one of our many door prizes. Programs are facilitated by a professional geophysicist with extensive teaching experience. Participants will receive a Heard certificate of completion of 6-6.5 hours of continuing education in Earth Science.

These programs are geared towards educators; however, all adults that are interested in Earth Sciences are welcome to participate! Registration required. Click here to register. Register for all 3 workshops and save $10 off the total tuition!

These classes are heavily subsidized by the Texas Energy Council, the Dallas Geophysical Society, and the Jim and Gail Spann Foundation.

For more information about these programs, please email Diane Brownlee at

Workshop Offerings

Rock and Mineral Identification and the Rock Cycle (With Guided Hands-on Practice); “Rock and Mineral Evolution” The New Geology Timeline

  • August 3, 2016; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • $50 per person
  • Content Enrichment Suitable for All Grades
  • Suitable for Docents, Master Naturalists, and other Informal Education providers

The Rock and Mineral ID portion of this class will provide you with hands-on, in-depth experience in identifying rocks and minerals. Using the exceptional mineral kit (yours to keep), you will learn how to investigate the properties of any mineral including luster, hardness, cleavage, fracture, crystal form and other diagnostics. Your supervised practice will equip you to use these skills confidently. 

You will build your ability to identify rocks as metamorphic, igneous, or sedimentary by the processes of their formation. Using your rock kit (yours to keep), the science of petrology will clarify, explain and demonstrate techniques used to identify each of the three rock types. For igneous rocks, you will investigate origin, temperature and setting by understanding texture, mineralogy and structure.  Sedimentary rocks will tell you if they are clastic, chemical or biologic, and how to spot characteristic weathering patterns.  Defining and understanding the composition and structure of metamorphic rocks will tell you the temperature, pressure and illustrate radical changes in rock chemistry which often occur on a regional scale.  Some different ways to illustrate the rock cycle will be offered.

This session will close with a guided hands-on lab:  participants will break into groups. Each group will be given a bag of unidentified minerals/rocks.  Using everything they have learned so far, and taking the kit samples in comparison, each group will identify the contents of their bag.  Both instructors will move between the groups to assist.

Rock and Mineral Evolution: Rocks and minerals are enjoying new scholarly appreciation.  Since 2013, the human concept of Earth history, geologic time, and the history of life on our planet has undergone a complete revision through the efforts of geological science research and the advancement of technology.   

We will examine the role of rocks and minerals as essential to the new interpretation of Earth’s history: the evolution of minerals and rocks throughout our planet’s life will be discussed.  Learn about the “6 Earths”, starting with the collision with a planetoid Theia which formed Earth 4500 million years ago.  What were the 60 “Uber mineral types”, and why do we now have 4600?  This is the New Geology, being taught today in university and college geology departments worldwide.

What does it mean for you and our students?  For space exploration?  For our Earth’s future?  

Plate Tectonics, A-Z; The “Dynamic Duo” Erosion and Weathering; Fluvial Erosion

  • August 4, 2016; 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • $35 per person
  • TEKS-Based Content Enrichment Suitable for All Grades
  • Suitable for Docents, Master Naturalists, and other Informal Education providers

In Plate Tectonics A-Z, the Texas Earth Science TEKS* will be specifically addressed! 

First, a fresh look at the history of Plate Tectonic theory will be followed by examples of its ongoing development.  Historic evidence will be followed by recent developments, here on Earth and also in our Solar System.  Have you noticed how many new species of dinosaurs are announced every year?  

Why do we use the term “tectonic”?  You will understand why as you become familiar with the major crustal features associated with plate tectonics, which will be contrasted with local landforms.  Scales of size, complexity and time will become clear as we consider world-size changes to our planet over the last 4300 million years.  

Faults and deformation will be explained as parts of both global change and local movement.  Earthquakes will be discussed as a timely topic. 

Today’s state-of-the-science will include new research, looking into the earth to track lost plates, and finding unexpected pools of magma.  Look into the future and predict what changes scientists expect to see in the arrangement of the plates, and why.  Relate the future to the past by tracing plate movements: some have stalled, some have sped up. Even our solar system has shown signs of plate activity, as well as other recognizable earth processes.  

The Dynamic Duo: Weathering and Erosion Next, never be confused by the difference between weathering and erosion again!  Study examples from all over the world and across time. Participants will use topo maps to “see” local landscape changes over human time frames, and look at pairs of pictures to predict the state of familiar landscapes in geologic time.  Follow the effects of weathering/erosion in the news today, and look for evidence of similar effects in YOUR neighborhood.  Practice dissecting any landscape photo into weathering and erosional results, and identify what past and future images of the landscape will look like.  

Fluvial Erosion, produced by all types of running water, is up next. This is a specific and very important area of ongoing study.  Most of us have personally seen evidence of the problems man has with running water.  From the huge river to the small stream and even down to the ubiquitous drainage ditch, water is notoriously difficult to manage and control.  Man’s history of messing around with watersheds, rivers, streams irrigation canals etc., across time and space, is full of examples of unintended consequences.  Leave with a new understanding of this difficult topic.  You will be amazed how different any landscape looks to you when you see it through educated eyes.  

*8.9: A, B, C

Rock and Mineral ID: A Tune-up; Understanding Landforms: Crustal features…tectonic or not?; A Geology Time Machine: Seeing the Past and predicting the Future

  • August 5, 2016; 9 a.m.-4p.m.
  • $35 per person
  • TEKS-Based Content Enrichment Suitable for All Grade Levels
  • Suitable for Docents, Master Naturalists, and other Informal Education providers

Rock and Mineral ID: A Tune-up is a less-formal class meant for the person who wants to review/refresh their full body of knowledge regarding rocks and minerals.  Participants will practice their skills with hardness kit, fingernail and vinegar, and review all the textural and observation points used to identify rocks and their process of formation.  A poster with a different/easier way of showing the repeating rock cycle will be used.  There will be kits to borrow if desires, and participants can bring their own hardness kits and samples to use and identify.  (Rock kits and mineral kits will be available for purchase if desired, at $25 each or a total of $50.  The rock cycle laminated poster used in class will be available for $5.)

Understanding Landforms: Crustal Features…Tectonic or Not?  We will review plate tectonic terms briefly, and then look for key words often used to describe crustal features resulting from tectonic events.  We will look at example of tectonic landscapes and compare them to erosional landscapes and depositional landscapes. 

Differences between geographic and geologic nomenclature will be noted: these two types of names are often used interchangeably and incorrectly.   Historical accounts of explorers and travelers and literary examples will be compared to past and current geological descriptions of the same landscapes.  Be prepared to search for clues to which type of description the author really is offering!

The Geology Time Machine: Seeing the Past and Predicting the Future   In today’s world, the predictive power of geology is overlooked more frequently than it is used.  Like the Rock Cycle, there are other endlessly repeating cycles of creation and destruction, and you can appreciate them using geologic processes easily observed in action today.  You will learn to follow a landscape through formation, ongoing change (over many millennia or very quickly indeed), and eventual recycling.  Then you will practice seeing the past and the future of common everyday landscapes.  We can “read” a very interesting story right here on the Heard grounds! 

Study areas will also include some which are controversial in terms of land use:  what can be built, how water is managed, or how land is utilized (new housing enclaves anywhere, beaches, near rivers, even near irrigation for example).  You may find that you see and recognize geologic cyclic forces at work, and you can actually easily choose a “best” method of dealing with the inevitable result (for example, visiting a beach subdivision may now be a quite different experience!).

Attendance Tips:  

Each workshop will include indoor and outdoor sessions. Please plan to spend time walking outside on uneven terrain. Wear long pants with closed-toe shoes (no sandals or shoes with holes on the sides, please).


  • Lunch
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Insect repellant that protects against chiggers and ticks
  • Water bottle
  • Camera
  • Notebook
  • Extra pair of shoes