“Cheater!” That’s what geologists in other states jokingly call NPC Geology Professor Randy Porch (pictured above). They’re envious of Porch and other geology instructors in the Grand Canyon State who have so many wonderful geologic features to study in their own back yard.
Since he joined the NPC faculty some 20 years ago, countless students in the Introduction to Geology 101 and 102 classes have been very excited that Professor Porch doesn’t just show them textbook images of Arizona’s amazing geology, but he leads them on unforgettable field trips!
Geology 101 students go on a one-day field trip to the Salt River Canyon. Geology 102 students go on a prolonged trip to collect data for their project reports.
Former NPC geology student Paula Howard recalls the enthusiasm and passion for geology that Professor Porch shared during an overnight field trip to Central Arizona. Throughout the day, he shared stories of past explorations, fascinating geology and fossils he’s found. He explained that the fossils and shells strewn about the Verde Valley area indicate it was once the site of a large lake. He educated them about the rocks and rock formations and provided outdoor tips based on his personal experiences.
As the tour moved to and from multiple sites of interest, students hiked up and down trails, exploring, discovering and learning. “There are bugs, spiders and snakes along the way – all the fun stuff,” Howard says. There’s dust, heat and sweat to go with laughter, jokes and serious note- taking. Students map geologic features and rock types for the subsequent report they’ll submit to Professor Porch.
Shanice Orea is a student who took the Geology 102 class in the Fall 2016 semester. In the classroom, she learned a lot about terminology, the environment, early earth history, sedimentary structures and the rocks. Her overnight field trip included visits to a paleo site “where we found plenty of fossils,” Willow Springs Lake “where we determined the environments of deposition based on the information we gained,” and the East Verde River “where we determined the age of the area based on the rocks.”
“I honestly enjoyed everything we did,” Orea says. “From hiking, to collecting data, learning new information about the environment and visiting the different places. However, one of the highlights was when we gathered around the campfire and just talked with one another. Overall, it was a great experience for me. Very informative and fun. I learned a lot throughout the semester and during our overnight trip. It was always interesting when we talked about the fossils, where we identified and aged them. One of my favorite activities was determining the wind direction, by using a Brunton compass, and sedimentary structures.”
On other occasions, Professor Porch took students to Meteor Crater and the Salt River Canyon. Students worked in groups, identifying geological characteristics and measuring elevation levels. There were fossils and broken pottery everywhere, as well as great photograph opportunities for capturing indelible memories.
Some of the field trip veterans said they couldn’t get enough of the experience. Howard says, “I want to go again because it was so much fun! Professor Porch is an awesome instructor, and I really learned a lot from his class and the field trip.”
This adventure awaits you, too. By enrolling in NPC’s introductory geology class, you can increase your knowledge about geology in Arizona’s amazing outdoor “classroom” – from one of the best geology teachers around.
– Dennis Durband