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Clonbur, Galway, Ireland

Program Description

This course concept is designed to fulfill several needs of IDLS, specifically those Mathematics & Science concentration candidates, as well as Secondary Science Education (SEED) minor students, serving the needs of prospective secondary Earth and Biology teachers. It will serve as an intensive, field-based, upper division course of 3 credit hours each in Earth Science and Biology, and will last two weeks. An additional 1 credit hour assignment for each course will be available for students by the completion of an additional instructional task.

Four 2-hour preliminary sessions are required and will be scheduled in the spring prior to the course, along with a one-night overnight camping trip to Dolly Sods in early June 2018.
The proposed course will embody Earth and environmental science content, where students will examine first-hand the geology, flora, and fauna of Connemara, as well as the interactions of these elements with each other and the relative impacts of humans. Specific themes to be pursued in the course design include:

  • The Bedrock – Igneous & metamorphic rock, sediments & sedimentary rock, and fossils;
  • Shaping the Land – Geomorphology of glacial, fluvial, and karst environments;
  • Where the Land meets Sea – Coastal environments;
  • The Veneer of Life – Flora and fauna of bog, lacustrine, and stream environments;
  • Impact of Humans – The impact of development, pollution, and overall global changes;
  • Design of Field-Based Scientific Investigations – how to design, conduct, and report the results of a field-based inquiry, translatable to a classroom or home setting;
  • Biological communities and commercial utilization of natural resources;
  • Cultural Similarities and Differences – Tour of Galway, Neolithic, Bronze-age, and Medieval sites.

This course will allow students to meet general program objectives for international study, specific to mathematics and science. It will also provide an inquiry-based experience for prospective teachers that match requirements of scientific investigation required by accrediting bodies, especially for prospective middle- and secondary- grades teachers. Additional tasks that would extend the credit option would include the development of instructional materials for classroom use and service learning tasks such as developing interpretive signage and materials for use on “geo-trails” in both the US and in Ireland.

The course accommodates a total of 16 students, including 12 students and 4 inservice teachers, and will be led by two JMU instructors. Transportation to/from Shannon airport is provided, as is internal transportation from Petersburg to field study sites. Meals (except for days off), admissions fees, accommodations, and consumable materials are included in the course costs, plus the cost of tuition. Airfare to/from Ireland is not provided. Depending on scheduling and enrollment, an optional post-course trip to Northern Ireland may be available.

Location Description

One of the most picturesque and remote parts of Ireland is the Connemara Peninsula, including Counties Galway and Mayo. The site of the classic movie, “The Quiet Man,” this area is also noted for a unique combination of geology, ecology, and history that intersects that of the eastern United States of the last 1.1 billion years.

The base site will be the Petersburg Outdoor Education Centre (, in the scenic and historic Connemara Peninsula of Western Ireland, which has served as the base camp for the JMU Field Geology Course. This site is centrally located to a range of beach, mountain, woodland, lake, and peat bog environments. It is also a focal point for the Celtic history of Ireland. Students will stay in en-suite quad dormitory rooms, with meals provided). On-site attractions include hiking, caving, rock-climbing, and kayaking.


Eric Pyle | | Geology and Environmental Science

Katrina Gobetz | | Biology


Accommodations are provided as a part of the course fee, primarily at the Petersburg Outdoor Education Centre. Rooms are 4 students to a room with en suite bathrooms (w/shower). A common area/sitting room is provided on site, as well as a large classroom space and a dining hall which doubles as a work room for student projects.

If available, a post-course trip to Northern Ireland would include accommodations are budgeted for a hostel in Portstewart, Northern Ireland.

Meals are provided as a part of course fees. While in Petersburg, students prepare their own breakfasts and pack a lunch for the day from food provided, and on return from field excursions, students receive a hot dinner prepared by POEC staff. Students take room-based turns for kitchen duty. If the Northern Ireland post-course trip takes place, students are provided with a daily meal stipend. On the days off during the course, students will provide their own lunch and dinner.

Additional Items to Consider

This program has some situations that are mildly physically taxing, including hiking, walking across marshy terrains, some elevation, and possible rowing excursions on a nearby lake. The weather can be cool and wet in Ireland during the summer, then switch to warm and sunny, so one should expected broad swings in the weather.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.5

Prerequisites:For IDLS: Completion of ISCI 17X series of courses, For SEED Minors (or non-IDLS): Completion of introductory courses and at least one 300 level class in biology or geology, For Inservice teachers: C

Rising junior level is most appropriate, although sophomores are not excluded, and MAT graduate students are welcome.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short Essay 
  • Faculty Letter of Recommendation
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


GEOL 398: Topics in Geology (3 credits)

GEOL 501: Topics in Geology (3 credits)

BIO 426: Topics in Biology (3 credits)

BIO 501: Topics in Biology (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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