Seven Thomas Nelson students participated in the Virginia Geological Field Conference in October in Petersburg. They were (back row, left to right) Christopher McDowell, Lylliane Battle, Terri Zach, Victoria Ralph, (front row, left to right) Mahinaokalani Robbins, Keigan Thornton and Carter Stone.
Field trips offer students a chance for real-world experience and to get their hands dirty.
Keigan Thornton and six other Thomas Nelson students took that literally when they participated in the annual Virginia Geological Field Conference (VGFC) in late October in Petersburg.
“That hands-on experience is something I really enjoyed and I think I got a lot out of,” said Thornton, who is putting the finishing touches on an associate degree in science at Thomas Nelson before transferring to Old Dominion University next semester, where she will pursue a biology degree.
The conference spanned two days, with an evening session followed by a day session. The opening session was a workshop where attendees could talk to professionals and advisers about jobs in the scientific world.
“We didn’t just talk about what future geologists would need. We talked about what a future scientist might need,” Thornton said. “It was just helpful to plan out the rest of my academic career.”
The second day of the conference was a field trip, which included a visit to a quarry. Participants had to traipse through the mud on a cold, wet day, but that didn’t dampen their spirits.
“I really enjoyed getting out there,” Thornton said. “We learned why is this here and what does it mean.”
The conference far exceeded her expectations.
“It was so hands-on. We were looking at this rock that was upward of 600 million years old,” she said.
The experience provided her a spark, and she looks at rocks differently now.
“I think of how they’re composed because they have different minerals, and I think more so the history,” Thornton said. “I think, ‘How did the rock get here? What brought it here?’”