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Friday, May 20, 2016

Maybe they can do some work in Charlestown

URI students create educational materials for geology trail at Canonchet Farm

Visitors to Canonchet Farm in Narragansett – and its website – will soon have the opportunity to learn about the site’s unique geology thanks to students in a University of Rhode Island geology class. 

The 23 students worked with the Friends of Canonchet Farm to create an informative flier, virtual tour, teacher’s guide and children’s activities that will soon be uploaded to the group’s website, Canonchet Farm and be available at the farm.

“The Friends created the geology trail, and they’ve been maintaining it, but they wanted to make more people aware of it,” said Beth Laliberte, who teaches the URI course Landforms: Origin and Evolution. “There are some interesting geological features at the farm, and I was happy to get my students involved.”

The historic property dates to the 1700s and was farmed by the area’s original settlers. Owned by the town of Narragansett, the farm’s 174 acres include a wide variety of natural habitats, as well as a historic cemetery, apple orchard and caretaker’s house. The South County Museum is also located on the property.

Laliberte said the site features natural geologic formations related to the Earth’s last period of glaciation, as well as stone walls and cemetery headstones that represent geological materials modified by humans. “This was a different kind of project than I usually have my students work on, but it turned out really well and we were all happy to get involved,” she said.

Her students agree.

Ian Chernasky, a junior geology major from Burrillville, helped create the virtual field trip. He was responsible for collecting data and images from each of the 10 points of interest along the route and importing them into Google Earth.

“It was awesome to see a project come together into something that you can be proud of,” Chernasky said. “I learned a lot about the local history and geology of the area around the University, how millions of years of geologic activity worked to shape the area into what it is today.”

Jane Barnes, a junior history major from Glocester, enrolled in the class because she thought it would provide excellent background for a career working for the National Park Service. She helped create the children’s activities and enjoyed modeling them after those produced by the Park Service.

“The project was great because it gave our class the opportunity to do some hands-on work and community outreach and really get involved with real-life geologic work,” she said. “The neat thing about this project was that it was pretty free-form, so there was plenty of room for creativity. It really helped teach us how to brainstorm and make our ideas happen.”

For Caroline Amelse, a geology major who earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Hawaii in 2013, the project was the first chance she has had to combine her interests in social work, geology and graphic design into one activity.

“Dr. Laliberte allowed us to bring our unique skills to the table to benefit the larger group,” said Amelse, a Barrington resident who designed the educational flier about the trail. “This project really helped me practice synthesizing my geology knowledge with community outreach.”

Senior Konrad Poznanski of Griswold, Conn., worked on the children’s activities and especially enjoyed walking the geology trail to learn about the geologic history of the area. “The project gave me a deeper appreciation for the field of geology and how little details that most people miss can tell a lot about the area and what occurred millions of years ago,” he said. 

Kathie Kelleher of Friends of Canonchet Farm was very pleased with how each of the elements of the project turned out.

"I must admit, when I started talking to Beth about her class tackling a trail guide, I wondered how it could possibly come out looking like what I had in mind,” Kelleher said. “The four different aspects of the job were the students' ideas, and they all turned out incredibly better than I ever imagined. I am excited about finishing the job by having the flier, teacher's guide, and student activity sheets printed and distributed."

Pictured above: URI student Anders Brandon leans on a stone wall at Canonchet Farm in Narragansett while studying the geology of the area for a class project. 
Photo by Konrad Poznanski.