How Big is Big? The Translation of the Enormity of Geologic Time in an Informal Learning Environment

By Robert Brzuszek and Renee Clary.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In design and science education, students often encounter difficulties in relating, interpreting, and communicating the enormity of landscape scale and geologic time. This case study utilized a Landscape Architecture Design 1 class (N=24) to explore design solutions for an informal geology education exhibit in front of a university building in the southern United States. The project explored different ways in which scale can be abstracted into an outdoor display, and resulted in student opportunities for the representation of enormously large time frames within a small informal setting. The collaboration between a landscape architect and a geologist facilitated students’ greater understanding of geologic spatial scale and its influence upon design context. Evaluation of students’ solutions was accomplished through the dual lens of design elements and geology content knowledge: Pre- and posttests ascertained both students’ geological knowledge gain and application through the design process. Students who successfully incorporated geologic time in their designs addressed large scale conceptions in project research, exhibited higher geologic content knowledge at the conclusion of the project, and employed abstract metaphors in their project designs.

Keywords: Landscape, Design, Scale, Education, Geologic Time

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.69-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.767MB).

Robert Brzuszek

Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, USA

Bob Brzuszek, ASLA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Mississippi State University. He received his master’s degree in landscape architecture from Louisiana State University, and his undergraduate degree in horticulture from Michigan State University. His research interests focus on water quality issues, wildland/urban interface, ecological design, and ecotourism.

Renee Clary

Assistant Professor, Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, USA

Renee Clary’s principal area of research is geoscience education. She and LSU Professor Jim Wandersee are co-directors of EarthScholars Research Group (, whose primary focus is the integration of geological and biological knowledge during science instruction, in both formal and informal settings. Current areas of EarthScholars’ research includes the incorporation of the history of geobiology to improve science understanding, the improvement of visual geology/biology learning through innovative visualization strategies, and the maximization of geology/biology learning experiences in informal educational settings and at field sites.


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