SUQUAMISH — When students in Mark Darrach’s class at West Sound Academy discuss heavy metal during a break, they’re not talking about the latest album by Metallica.
Darrach, a former geologist whose love of the science has bounced him from Hanford to South Dakota, started a college-credit course in geology at the Suquamish school.
So far the year-long course has been a Richter-sized hit.
“It’s like putting a different lens on; getting a new perspective on the world we live in,” said student Jason Crabtree.
Students have learned about the large-scale, millennium-length history of the world; they have learned how mountain ranges popped up and continents pulled apart; they have eyed rocks of different hues, colors, and classifications.
During one recent class, Darrach illustrated a story by explaining how, when he was a gold-mine geologist in Black Hills, S.D., he dropped thousands of feet into the earth, where the temperature pushed 110 degrees and geologists had to work in shorts and T-shirts.
“No wonder you’re crazy!” one student exclaimed.
There are nine students in the class, which offers five college credits for successful completion.
For Darrach, it was a chance to connect with his geological roots. He served as an engineering and environmental geologist, as well as a teacher at Eastern Washington University, the University of Massachusetts, and Northern Arizona before landing at West Sound Academy.
“The kids love it,” he said of the class. “It’s something different. It’s hands-on science.”
Students recently traveled to Dungeness Spit in Sequim to nose around in ancient stream beds and rock formations.
“It’s interesting to think how, 100 years from now it’ll be changed,” said student Shannon Crabtree.
Students can now explain to a visitor how the Rockies were formed or talk about millions of years of history from a geological perspective.
“The world that exists now isn’t going to be the same in the future,” said Alden Denny.
Darrach said that students in the class actually get a deeper perspective on basic geology than a first-year university student would; because most universities are on the quarter system, he said, the basic geology class wouldn’t be as
long as the West Sound Academy offering.
Next year, he hopes to add five students each from North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island High Schools.