University of Texas at Austin

The Bureau Reaches Out to Future Scientists

February 22, 2019

Todd Caldwell (right) and Tara Bongiovanni (center) demonstrate “The Dirt and Rocks of Texas” to students at Jim Plain Elementary in Leander, Texas.

Since the Bureau of Economic Geology’s inception more than 100 years ago, public outreach has been one of its essential purposes for existence. Throughout the years, the Bureau has created many successful programs to disseminate knowledge to students, citizens, and policy makers around the world. The Switch Energy Project, for example, provides an objective look at the future of energy to hundreds of thousands through an extensive offering of online videos and educational materials. Taking a more personal approach, though, many Bureau researchers give their time to visit local classrooms and science fairs to connect one-on-one with students and teachers. While the total number of people they reach is certainly smaller than that reached by Switch, researchers like hydrologist and soil physicist Dr. Todd Caldwell and soil engineer Tara Bongiovanni make a lasting impression on young students—and their parents. Presenting at Science Night at Jim Plain Elementary School in Leander recently, Caldwell and Bongiovanni explored “The Dirt and Rocks of Texas” with more than 500 students, teachers, and parents. The presentation demonstrated the relationship among rocks, soils, and their place in the rock cycle. The hands-on demonstration gave students an opportunity to closely examine native Texas rock samples, and to compare local soil samples with those from more distant regions. By seeing how differently sized particles fall at different rates in a water-filled test tube, students were challenged to understand the nature and composition of dirt, how it’s created, and how it relates to the rock types in our environment.