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One more load: School is in session

A new approach to the rocks and minerals curriculum being taught in Ontario

September 18, 2019  By Norm Cheesman

I love the fall. In the roadbuilding business, it’s the busiest season as members focus on completing contracts and supplying material to pave the way into the new year.

It’s also a time of new beginnings. Summer is over, the kids are back at school and we can stop and think a little bit about the future.

In the aggregate business, that future and those kids going back to school are linked. But how?  

Research conducted by Ipsos on behalf of OSSGA provided the insight that while 68 per cent of people are ‘aware’ of the aggregate industry – only 30 per cent really understand the role aggregate plays in all of our lives.  This means there isn’t a connection between the gravel truck that is in front of them on the highway, and the roads, bridges, houses and even the schools they drop their kids off at every morning.


In 2016, OSSGA launched a public awareness campaign to help the public understand that “Gravel Builds Highways” and all kinds of other infrastructure. But to truly change public perception, we recognized that it needs to start with education in the classroom. So OSSGA asked CGC Educational Communications, who have a 25-year track record of developing and implementing award-winning educational programs, to tackle the challenge of creating a new approach to the rocks and minerals curriculum.  In Ontario, the first time that subject is taught is in the Grade 4 curriculum.

Rocks ‘N Our World
Rocks tell a magical story of millions of years ago. Even more magical is watching kids discover the stories in rocks. That was the experience of 230 Grade 4 students who were part of the pilot test of OSSGA’s curriculum-based education program: Rocks ‘N Our World.

Students start the program by investigating how the objects in their built environment are made. They become school prospectors to find all the uses of stone, sand and gravel in their school building, yard and parking lot. They learn how brick, asphalt, concreate and glass are made. Then they engage in a math activity where they weigh the walls of their school to see how close their estimate is to the average schools’ use of 13,000 tonnes of aggregate. Later modules take students on a journey back to pre-history, to a lab environment where they learn about testing and identifying the rocks themselves; and finally, to designing their own rehabilitation project. Students get the full scope of how rocks rock their world.

The over-arching purpose of this education program is to help people in communities understand the necessary trade-offs that allow us to have a well-built, man-made environment that uses the best and most accessible natural resources that we are blessed to have in Ontario. Parents often say, “Tell my kids, not me. They’ll tell me.” And they certainly do. Youth are key influencers in households and OSSGA is hoping this new curriculum gets everyone talking about the fundamentals of aggregate.

The new curriculum was piloted in six schools in the past year and will be actively marketed to schools at teacher conferences and professional development days this fall, so the next time Mom is driving behind a gravel truck, OSSGA’s hope is that they can all have a chat about how that stone, sand and gravel was instrumental in allowing them to get back to school.

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