UIU is ready to ‘Rock’ with donated collection

Junior forensic science major Brittany McKinney and sophomore environmental science major Amanda Reno (l-r) display a few of the crystals, geodes, fossils and pieces of petrified wood originally collected by Leora Sullivan of Arlington. A large number of the donated specimens will be exhibited during the upcoming “Iowa Rocks” celebration on the Fayette campus Saturday, Oct. 10.

A mountain-sized donation will be the featured exhibit during Upper Iowa University’s “Iowa Rocks” celebration on Saturday, Oct. 10. While coinciding with National Fossil Day and Earth Science Week, the event will be held from 3:30-5 p.m. in Colgrove-Walker Hall on the Fayette campus.

Dr. Katherine McCarville, UIU associate professor of geosciences, eagerly announced that the Oct. 10 program will provide the first public viewing of an extensive rock collection bestowed to the University by Leora Sullivan ’61.

“It is really quite an eclectic assortment of rocks, ore, fossils, and mineral specimens. There are hundreds of them. Leora must have just loved each piece,” said McCarville. “A rock, mineral or fossil without context is just a paperweight. If you know where they come from, you can use it in understanding the geologic history of the place. Many of Leora’s specimens were labeled with this location information.”

An Illinois native, Leora (Oldenburg) Sullivan and her husband, Merle, moved to Arlington, Iowa, in 1959. While farming with her husband, Leora decided to return to school and graduated from UIU in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and elementary education. During her teaching career she taught at Randalia, Arlington and Garnavillo.

According to family friends, Leora enjoyed taking many “educational trips” with Merle. It is during these travels that she basked in nature’s beauty and gathered her collection.

“I understand that Leora was a gifted and dedicated teacher. I think she would be glad to know that her collection is still inspiring students today,” said McCarville, who explained students will benefit for years to come from the assortment of specimens to be housed in the permanent geoscience teaching collection. Other students are learning a great deal by simply being involved in developing the display cases.

The Andres School of Education also looks forward to utilizing the collection as another tool in preparing tomorrow’s teachers for the classroom.

“Not only is the extent of the collection amazing, but I am delighted to know this gift will allow our student-teachers the opportunity to share pieces of this educational experience in their respective classrooms,” said Dr. Barb Ehlers, UIU assistant professor of education. “I’m sure it will provide them another approach in leading a classroom, while bringing smiles to the faces of students of all ages.”

In addition to the Colgrove-Walker exhibit, plans are to potentially display pieces of the collection in Upper Iowa’s Andres Center for Business and Education, Henderson-Wilder Library, and Student Center. McCarville noted that eventually portions of the collection could possibly be viewed at local public libraries and schools. Additional specimens will also be used to build small kits containing curricular materials to be distributed to area teachers.

“I’m always fascinated with mining and ore deposits, so the gold ore specimens from Colorado and the fire assay crucibles caught my eye immediately,” McCarville said in sharing a couple of her favorite pieces. “Two native copper specimens are most likely from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and there are several beautiful mineral crystals and crystal clusters that are quite striking.”

In addition to viewing the Sullivan collection during Iowa Rocks, McCarville invited the public to bring along their own rocks or fossils for identification. Those who do, are reminded to carefully package their items for transport.

Upper Iowa University’s Iowa Rocks will coincide with the Saturday, Oct. 10, Take A Kid Outdoors (TAKO) “Rockin’ Rocks and Fossils” event at Gouldsburg Park near Hawkeye. The event will start at 10 a.m. McCarville and fellow TAKO board member Bruce Fink will teach participating children and their families about rocks, fossils, as well as some other unique treasures that can be found in the area. Lunch will be provided.

TAKO participants should dress for the weather, bring bug repellant, water and anything else needed to be comfortable in the outdoors. Participants may want to wear clothing appropriate for walking and playing in the nearby river. Participants are encouraged to bring a digital camera and/or binoculars. TAKO is dedicated to encouraging outdoor encounters for children with the adults in their lives, so children must be accompanied by an adult.

For additional information on either Oct. 10 event, contact Dr. McCarville at mccarvillek@uiu.edu or 563-425-5233.

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