CCC: The perfect place to explore Nature's classroom


CCC2NAU student Rylee Dunham makes observations about rocks during a recent field trip of her Natural Disasters class.



FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Under a clear, blue sky, Rylee Dunham studied the stone. Wind blew through the pine trees. Her classmates milled about, also studying the rocks. 


With notebook resting on rock, she took notes on what she saw: Did the rock break apart easily? Was it soft? Color? Dunham, a CCC2NAU student who intends to complete a degree in Secondary Education, was on a field trip.


“It was pretty cool,” she said. “We learn a lot, but we don’t usually experience first-hand what we learned in class.”


Faults, volcanoes, wildfire scars, landslide remnants and meteor impact craters – all of these scenes of Natural Disasters are within a short drive from Coconino Community College, which makes it an ideal location for students studying the natural sciences like Geology. CCC’s faculty regularly use the natural wonders of northern Arizona to function as a classroom for students.


CCC Geology Instructor Scott Johnson recently took the students enrolled in his course on Natural Disasters on a field trip to get them outside and to see an active fault right in the students’ back yard.


“We can only bring so much geology indoors, and my ultimate goal is to make students look at the landscape around them with new eyes,” Johnson said. “Some of them may have driven past these spots dozens of times without even a hint that there was something interesting there to be discovered as well as a hazard to be respected.”


Dunham said the experienced helped her when she took a test on the material. By seeing and touching the rock and the evidence of erosion along a fault line, she was able to visualize it for the test.


“Mr. Scott was there, and he actually pointed out what we should be paying attention to,” Dunham said.


Johnson, who was drawn into the connections between Geology and the life on the planet while he was in college, said he loves teaching Geology in Flagstaff. What cinched it for him was field trips, where he learned that he could read the stories of the planet written in rocks and he could put his hands on millions of years of history.


“Wherever you are, there’s a world to understand and appreciate underfoot, but here we can take a few steps outside the classroom door and point at volcanoes,” he said.


And if he piles students into a van, he can get them to any time of natural hazard he talks about in class – faults, volcanoes, wildfire scars, landslides, flood channels and even meteor impact sites – and still be back by the end of the class period.


“That’s rare,” Johnson said. “A class is more interesting when you can make it relevant to students’ lives, and it’s not hard to make that case here.”


Dunham, who is originally from Gilbert in the metro Phoenix area, said her hometown is mostly buildings and fields.


“Here, I could physically see the different types of rocks, the years,” she said. “There’re different seasons, and with CCC2NAU, I could live the college life and receive a cheaper education.”


Find your Path at CCC. Visit for more information. For more photos of the trip, visit



Friday, 18th October 2019 12:00 AM

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  • Friday, 18th October 2019 12:00 AM