Calvin brings sand dune to campus to learn hands on


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Calvin University professor has created a sand dune in the middle of campus as a way to give students hands-on field experience, while keeping coronavirus precautions intact.  

Geology professor Dr. Deanna van Dijk decided to build a dune on campus instead of having her students travel to the Lake Michigan sand dunes to conduct field work throughout the upcoming semester. 

“So, think three large 12-passenger vans (with) 24 students, plus upper-level students driving,” van Dijk said. “I was trying to figure out how to do that safely.” 

She said the solution seemed obvious.  

“Into my mind came an idea: If it’s hard to get the students to the dunes, can we bring a dune to the student?” van Dijk said. 

Determined to give her students the hands-on experience the course demands, van Dijk had 630 tons of sand delivered to a campus parking lot earlier this week.  

From there, her and a team of upper-level students got to work sculpting the dune. 

A man-made sand dune area on Calvin University’s campus that will be used to conduct research. (Aug. 6, 2020)

“As soon as the wind starts working on this it’ll become a little bit more natural and we’ll be able to study what happens on typical dunes along Lake Michigan,” van Dijk said.  

Calvin University senior Peter Duimstra is helping prepare the research area, embracing his professor’s innovative spirit. 

“We named the dune area, the perseverance dune area,’” Duimstra said. “I feel like that is an excellent attitude to take with you later in life.” 

A man-made sand dune area on Calvin University’s campus that will be used to conduct research. (Aug. 6, 2020)

Though the man-made dune won’t compare to those along the Lake Michigan coast, van Dijk said it’ll get the job done.  

“It’s the being out here, doing the measurements, seeing what’s changing overtime,” she said. “Not just learning about it in their heads but actually experiencing that.” 

Van Dijk hopes the experiment will encourage other educators to join her in thinking outside the box when it comes to creating a coronavirus curriculum.  

“We’ve got new boundaries this year, but within those boundaries of being safe, we can still be creative,” she said.  

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