University of Western Ontario: Earth sciences tour rocks the world of young geology enthusiasts

The excitement for the geological collection in Western’s Earth sciences department could not be contained by fifth graders and geology enthusiasts Oliver, Xander and Jackson.

“I’ve never seen this many or this cool of rocks,” shared Xander, which accompanied the ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and, ‘look at this!’ from the boys as they admired the collection.

As the boys entered the first stop on their tour, the Richard W. Hutchinson Geoscience Collaborative Suite, even the photos on the wall got their attention. That was until they stepped into the display room which houses numerous, beautiful rocks, minerals and gemstones.

Xander, Oliver and Jackson (Mitch Zimmer)
It was Oliver’s dad, Michael Leavens, who arranged the tour. After taking note of Oliver’s and his friends’ recent interest in rocks and minerals, he wanted to keep their passion alive and show them they could create a career out of their love for geology.

“I realize that they are young and far from post-secondary education, but I think that by showing them what exists right here in London, in their own backyard, it might help them to think about their futures and the possibilities of Western,” Leavens shared.

Leavens emailed the Faculty of Science’s general inbox to inquire about a tour. He was then connected with Cam Tsujita, a professor in the department of Earth sciences, who was more than happy to showcase Western’s facilities to the young boys.

“Supporting interests of kids in science at this age is incredibly important, regardless of whether or not they choose to pursue it as part of a career,” said Tsujita, who admits interacting with the public, especially with some eager kids, and sharing the “cool aspects” of the work being done in the department of Earth sciences is one of his favourite parts of his job.

“Not only can this genuine enthusiasm for learning lead to rewarding life experiences for them as people, but this fascination with how the world works will also be essential to their development as globally aware and environmentally responsible adults of their generation,” he said.

In addition to touring the geological collection at the Richard W. Hutchinson Geoscience Collaborative Suite, the boys were shown the Rock Garden and the collections in the Biological and Geological Sciences Building.

Home collection
Oliver’s interest in geology started in the last couple of years, but this past year it really took off. He started a club with his friends – the Rocks and Minerals Club – where they collect and identify rocks. The boys even brought a rock with them to be identified by their tour guide Tsujita.

The boys’ collection is “huge” – two buckets full. They have collected rocks when visiting islands, out on walks, and in their own backyards. Last summer, Oliver went on a trip with his family to Cochrane, in northern Ontario, where he found many rocks to add to his collection.

The reason Oliver, Xander and Jackson are so interested in geology really comes down to a few simple reasons: the look of them, the experience of finding them, the history behind them, and their names. It’s also “something to do when my iPad dies,” said Jackson.

Their favourite part of the tour: seeing the rocks. “These are epic,” described Jackson, and Oliver and Xander agreed.