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Mining and Minerals Education Foundation

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MFSW Education Outreach

The Mining and Minerals Education Foundation (MMEF), formerly known as the Mining Foundation of the Southwest (MFSW) funds an Education Outreach Coordinator position managed through the School of Mining & Mineral resources at The University of Arizona (U of A). Chris Earnest has served as the Educational Outreach Coordinator since September 2019 where he creates educational materials, demonstrations and activities to help stimulate interest in and understanding of mineral resources and the mining industry. Chris reports to Jodi Banta, Program Manager of the Institute.

He is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a BS in Geosciences and a minor in Spanish.  As well as English, Chris speaks Japanese and Spanish. As a senior teacher of English as a foreign language in Japan, Chris has over a decade of experience of classroom teaching grades 1-6 as well as experience teaching secondary students and adults in both classroom and small-group settings. Chris is especially excited about being able to present in a variety of educational settings, including classrooms, seminars, and public events as he believe that being available to the public is key to effective communication and outreach. He is very excited about this opportunity that allows him to combine his passion for education with his passion for geology.

Chris also has experience instructing teenagers in basic geologic principles while volunteering for the Boy Scouts of America, Scout Association of Japan, and the Society of Earth Science Students. As a member of those organizations, he instructed teenagers in basic geologic principles such as: rock and mineral identification and classification, concepts of structural geology,  the concept of superposition and the fundamentals of orienteering.

Prior to teaching in Japan, Chris worked at the Arizona Radiogenic Helium Dating Lab Preparing and processing mineral samples for U-Th-He thermochronologic age dating and was responsible for preparing and maintaining lab standard samples, managing lab supplies, and collection and categorization of hazardous waste.

Your support of this education program through the Foundation is appreciated.

Chris is  available throughout the year to speak in your Arizona classroom. He will provide engaging lectures and hands-on activities to teach students how minerals get out of the ground and into your cellphone. Our lectures and hands-on activities are targeted to each specific audience and encourage students to think like scientists and engineers. For more information click here.

Additional Outreach Funded by the Foundation

A scale-model diorama of a modern open pit copper mine, funded by the Foundation, was on exhibit for the last 7 years at the Arizona Heritage Center in Tempe, Arizona. The diorama has been relocated to the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center & Museum in Miami, Arizona and has been refurbished and reduced in size to accommodate the available space. The model was 28-ft long by 15-ft deep, from front to back. The structure is 8-ft tall with about a 2-ft high wind turbine on top. There are 18 DVD screens on the front of 9 consoles with 21 learning modules. Each module illustrates a critical part of the mining and processing story. The exhibit had its grand opening on January 13, 2024 and is now open to the public.

History and Evolution of the OUTREACH Coordinator Program

March 30, 2009 to April 1, 2019

The program began March 30, 2009 through the former Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (ADMMR) located in the former Shriners building in Phoenix, which also housed the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. The MFSW funded and tasked Pam Wilkinson, Education Curator, with educating students in grades 7-12 about mining and the mining industry.  The expectation was that Pam would accomplish this by spending 30-60% of her time actually working with students in classrooms around the state. The focus was on grades 7-12 because the mineral museum was doing a great job with outreach to the K-6 grade students. 

Pam developed teaching materials that linked to state standards and began to network with science organizations in the state including, Arizona Foundation for Resource Education (AFRE), AZ Science Teachers Association (ASTA), and AZ Science Coordinators Assoc. (Now called AzSELA). These organizations gave her the opportunity to meet influential teachers in the state who could, and did, provide invitations into classrooms.  Presentation requests soon began to arrive in early August and soon after Pam was presenting programs in schools in Arizona and New Mexico.

When ADMMR was defunded, the employees transferred to the Arizona Geological Survey in January 2011. The program was set to continue there, however, State statutes for the AZGS were different from those at ADMMR, and collaboration with private industry was not allowed.  This limited the role MFSW was able to play and the support that industry was allowed to provide.

Dr. Mary P. Poulton, Chair of the Mining and Geological Engineering Department at The UofA, and Director of the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources needed an Outreach Coordinator to provide K-12 outreach and recruiting for the department. Hence, the program moved to the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resource at The UofA in July 2011. 

Along with the move to the university and the new title came additional job responsibilities. Now in addition to educating students and adults about mining, the Outreach Coordinator would help recruit students to the Mining & Geological Engineering Department, create and implementing a summer camp for mining, and provide activities and presentations at the interdisciplinary summer engineering academy and working with the ENG 102 high school teachers. Over the next 8 years the program blossomed.

On April 1, 2019 Pam officially retired.  Pam's ability to match the message to her audience made her presentations on mining, minerals, and earth science interesting and engaging. She spoke their language and knew what would get through to kids and young adults interested in science, and opened their minds through fun, hands-on activities.

Pam stated “This job was a perfect match for me and I cannot thank the MFSW, ADMMR, AZGS and IMR for providing me with the opportunity to share my knowledge of and passion for the mining industry with people, not only in Arizona but also across the country.  The program of being face to face with people and teaching them about mining is so very important. We are a small but mighty industry, upon which all other industries rest. You could say that mining is the bottom of the food chain for humans. Once again: THANK YOU!”

The Mining and Minerals Education Foundation t is indebted to Pam Wilkinson for all she has done for mining and for educating today’s youth.



P. O. Box 42317

Tucson, Arizona  85733

Phone - (520) 577-7519


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