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Rock solid lesson from an industry geologist

Students in classroom learning about rock cycles
Desiré Gámez-Torrent leads a lesson in geology

In her guest science lessons, Desiré Gámez-Torrent, a geoscientist at ExxonMobil and Wesley parent, proved that you’re never too young to have your world rocked by a couple of rocks.

What started with looking at a couple of rocks on a table has expanded into a long journey of enquiry, with lessons from a geologist, a volcano experiment and clay models of the City of Pompeii. The enquiry, guided by the students and their interest in discovering more, has enabled them to be geologists and engage with their learning in an active and participatory way.

It all began when geoscientist Desiré Gámez-Torrent noticed her son Erik playing with rocks in the ECLC. As someone who has been fascinated with rocks since childhood, she readily agreed to teach Erik and his classmates about how rocks are formed. She repeated the lessons for her elder son Arnau and the Prep and Year 1 classes, tying into their exploration of landscapes.

‘I divided the lessons into three rock types – igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic,’ said Gámez-Torrent.

‘We recreated how rocks were formed by doing several activities, from creating their own “rock” with plasticine, to simulating the forces of rain, river, wave, ice and wind in an erosion/deposition sandpit experiment to understand how these forces shape our landscape.’

The experience was totally immersive for students, with the aid of the Australian Rock Kit for schools materials, supplied by the Teacher Earth Science Education Program (TESEP) – chaired by Gámez-Torrent’s ExxonMobil geoscience colleague Jill Stevens.

‘The experiments were so authentic, fun and realistic in showing what happens in nature over hundreds, thousands and millions of years that they captured the children’s interest right away,’ Gámez-Torrent explained.

‘At the end of the lesson, the children also had chances to observe and describe real fossils and fossil fuel samples.

‘After the sessions I was really pleased to hear from Erik’s teacher, Mr Nick Xiao, that the children had decided to make a volcano in the garden sandpit during recess and that all the books about rocks and earth in the school library had been reserved.

‘I found that, even though they were just four years old, the children had an amazing ability to absorb information. I could clearly tell by some of the clever questions and comments that many of these children had a scientific mindset.’

The Australian government recently reported that jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are growing 1.6 times faster than non-STEM jobs. This demand for STEM skills reinforces the importance of equipping Wesley students with broad, holistic skills. Seeing a scientist like Gámez-Torrent, and feeling her infectious enthusiasm for science, was an inspiring addition to science lessons in the Junior School.

Read more about Gámez-Torrent’s journey from the olive groves of Catalonia, Spain to an international career with ExxonMobil.