A couple of years ago, in an effort to assist in schools education in KwaZulu-Natal, the Geology Education Museum opened its doors to the general public, targeting teachers and pupils in particular. It was also seen as the perfect opportunity to expose prospective students to the exciting and varied fields of Geology.
Before 2007 the Museum formed part of the School of Geological Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It was initially opened in 1948 by Professor L.C. King to house rock, mineral and fossil collections. At the beginning of 2007 the Museum moved to its new location on the UKZN - Westville Campus. It is now part of the newly established Science and Technology Education Centre. GEM is the only Geological Museum in KwaZulu-Natal.
The museum provides a series of displays pertaining to the high school geography syllabus, ranging from a basic introduction to minerals and rocks, to the fields of Economic Geology and Palaeontology. Rock, fossils and mineral samples from KwaZulu-Natal are intended to promote an awareness of our immediate geological environment. For potential students and students in the school, there are displays relating to Geology as a career.
A large proportion of the teaching is conducted using interactive presentations, where visitors to the Museum may have “hands-on” contact with minerals and rocks, look down microscopes and sort fossils. Teaching is also carried out using video and computer presentations. This “object-based” and graphical method of teaching is an important way of putting fundamental concepts across.
The Museum has the capacity to be a dynamic centre of informal science tuition. By targeting the displays at a generally uninformed, youthful public, and keeping the level of information basic, geology can now become accessible at a greater range of people. It also has the capacity to complement the proposed science education service in the Durban Metropolitan Region.
It should always be remembered that the Museum has a dual function to perform, and that it must house rock, mineral and fossil collections, as well as fulfill the role of a geological educator to the public.