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13 Aug. 2019

Desire makes children into rock stars 

Success in tackling the biggest challenges facing the world in the 21st century will be governed by our ability to capture the imagination of children with gifted technical minds and encourage them to study maths and science.

This is why our biggest community investment, our Bright Future Program, focuses on inspiring kids to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

For ExxonMobil Geoscientist Desire Gamez-Torrent, her inspiration came from her father’s olive grove in Ulldecona, a town in the south of Catalonia, Spain.

“When I was a young girl I would help with the harvest by picking up olives under the trees,” she said. “But I was far more interested in the rocks on the ground which contained amazing fossils.”

Desire’s fascination with rocks seriously impacted her olive-farming career, and took her off to university to study geology and then to complete her PhD in civil engineering.

It also resulted in her being scooped up by ExxonMobil recruiters while she was attending an international conference in Vienna.

Since then she has been on the international circuit with her engineer husband, Esteban Sanz (currently with the Australian New Reservoir Developments Group), working on a wide variety of energy resource developments in the US, Norway and UK.

Today Desire is part of the Melbourne-based geoscience team working on Papua New Guinea oil & gas developments.

When she saw her son, Erik, working with rocks in his Melbourne pre-school class, she was soon drawn into the lesson. As a result she agreed to teach the children about how the rocks are formed.

This was a totally immersive experience with the aid of the Australian Rock Kit for schools materials supplied by the Teacher Earth Science Education Program (TESEP) – chaired by Desire’s ExxonMobil geoscience colleague Jill Stevens. 

“I divided the three lessons into three rock types – igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic,” said Desire.

“We recreated how the rocks were formed by doing several activities from creating their own ‘rock’ with plasticene, to simulating the forces of rain, river, wave, ice and wind in the erosion/deposition sandpit experiment to understand how these forces shape our landscape.

“The experiments were so authentic, fun and realistic to what happens in nature over hundreds, thousands and millions of years that they captured the children’s interest right away.

“At the end of the lesson, the children also had chances to observe and describe real fossils and fossil fuel samples.

“After the sessions I was really pleased to hear from the teacher that the children decided to make a volcano in the garden sandpit during recess and that all the books about rocks and earth in the school library were reserved.

“I found that, even though they were just four years old, the children have an amazing ability to absorb information. I could clearly tell by some of the clever questions and comments, which of these children had a scientific mindset.”

After her success with the pre-schoolers, Desire repeated the sessions with a combined Prep and Grade 1 group, including her elder son, Arnau.

Scientists like Desire, who can inspire children with their infectious enthusiasm, are at the front line of addressing the many technical challenges we face in the 21st century.

National Science Week
Photo — Desire explains the difference between extrusive and intrusive igneous rocks. “The children have an amazing ability to absorb information.”  

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