Mr. Casias’s new geology course rocks!


Students explore and identify rocks in the hills of San Domenico. Photo taken by Monica Sanford.

Monica Sanford

The vast hills of San Domenico hold an alluring cornucopia of geological evidence from the past. Adam Casias, a science teacher at San Domenico, leads a small group of students on a hike to practice identifying the earth and to uncover the campus’s history.

Casias is teaching a brand new course this semester. He has taught many science and math classes before such as physics, precalculus, and chemistry. This is his first year teaching his passion: geology.

Despite the various classes he has taught at San Domenico, Casias majored in geology. At first, he studied civil engineering at the Air Force Academy. After his active duty, he took general education classes to fulfill his prerequisites, expecting to pursue civil engineering in his educational career.

“They [The Academy] said, ‘Since it’s your first year here, let’s just take some generic classes and then you can transfer to the college of engineering afterwards,’” Casias said. “So in that first semester, I ended up taking two earth science classes —because they looked interesting— and fell in love with the topic and decided to stick in that department and declare geology as my major.”

Once again, he tried something new when he launched the geology course at San Domenico.

“We offered it [geology] last year, but not enough juniors and seniors signed up for it to be a full course,” Casias explained. 

This year, the science department has offered multiple single-semester courses, which has allowed teachers the opportunity to provide courses that expose students to new and different topics. 

“Traditionally in high school science, we have experience in biology, chemistry, physics …[but] geology is one of those topics where it is really interdisciplinary,” Casias said. He wants students to be exposed to applicable knowledge that is more than just the typical high school science career.

“What’s so great about the campus is that we can use it as our classroom,” Casias added.

The small squad of geology students take frequent hikes around the San Domenico campus. With their eye goggles on and hammers in hand, they discover the history of the campus by breaking open rocks and making inferences. 

“We learned that the whole campus used to be under water,” Casias said. By observing the rock underneath dirt, known as bedrock, all around campus, Casias and his students have concluded that the sandstone alludes to the campus once being under water millions of years ago.

Student, Sinead Murphy, breaks open a rock outcropping with her hammer. Photo taken by Monica Sanford.

Olivia Williams, a junior taking geology, is doubling up in science this year. Juniors are required to take chemistry as a mandatory class for science, but Williams, a science-enthusiast, takes on both courses. 

“The class is super relaxing. We come in and take notes which is honestly fun… I’m not taking it as a science credit, whereas someone else might. I’m just doing it because it’s fun,” Williams said. 

Several students have mentioned that the class is relaxing and takes away the stress that other classes often inflict. There is not a lot of homework besides projects and studying for tests. The hikes have lessened the mental and academic strain on students, while still teaching them about geology. The students’ positive responses show that classes should have a healthy balance of learning and fun.

Williams said, “Mr. Casias makes the class so interesting. He always answers your questions regardless of what they are. He has a ‘Yeah let’s learn!’ attitude. He’s super attentive.” 

Casias’s teaching style in geology is also positively received by Isabelle Jolson, a senior in the class. “Mr. Casias taught me chemistry last year, and at first I was struggling with the course, but by the next semester, my grade went up a lot, and I gained a better understanding of the material because of his engaging teaching style,” Jolson said.

As a senior with college applications, Jolson said that the class is a nice break from the pressure and bustle of other classes.

“We mostly just do our work in class and we often go on hikes and break rocks outdoors, which is really helpful for me and other student’s mental health, since we are all juggling with college apps at the moment,” Jolson said. She talked about how the course is engaging, yet the hikes and physical activity boosts her mood and focus for the day.

The physical geology course started by Mr. Casias has been well received by students of different grade levels. Casias’s backstory can be an inspiration to current students today; he showed us that people should be free to follow whatever excites them. Our paths are not set in stone.