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Trio of teachers publish book about regional geology

February 10, 2011|BY CHRIS COPLEY | chrisc@herald-mail.com
  • John Means along with Suzannah and Matthew Moran published a richly illustrated guide to geologic formations visible along roads and highways in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.
Submitted photo

HAGERSTOWN — Drive through Washington County and you're bound to see limestone boulders poking up in farm fields or tilted and folded rock layers in road cuts.

Do you ever wonder what is under the blanket of soil and vegetation draped over everything?

This question is at the heart of a book published in September by three local teachers.

"Roadside Geology of Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C." is a plain-language guidebook for people who are inquisitive about rocks and landforms visible from roads and highways in Washington County.

The book was written over the course of seven years by John Means, an English and geology professor who retired from Hagerstown Community College a few years ago. He criss-crossed Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., by car to find and photograph land and rock formations for the book.

"I needed a retirement project," Means said. "I was retired for most of that time and I worked on it every day."

 The book has illustrations on almost every page, with photos by Means and maps and drawings by Suzannah Moran, a geography professor at HCC, and Matthew Moran, an art teacher at Seneca Valley High School, Germantown, Md. The Morans live in Adamsville, Md., in Frederick County.

All three said they came by their interest in geology through travel. Suzannah Moran saw unusual rock formations in Iceland. Matt Moran drew maps of land forms as an employee at state parks. And Means went across the country at a young age.

"My parents took me to the West Coast in a '53 Plymouth," he said. "I saw all these formations."

But there's plenty to see in local land formations, they said. They mentioned a few favorite spots — Annapolis Rocks, a formation of tough quartzite on South Mountain with a great view of Hagerstown Valley, and the C&O Canal towpath, which cuts through many different kinds of rock.

Walking past exposed rock is a teachable moment, Means said.

"You'll see many layers of rock are tilted," he said. "Ask your kids, ‘Why are they tilted?' And if you see bent layers of rock, ask, ‘How did solid rock get bent?' You can talk about plate tectonics. You can talk about plasticity, about rock under pressure and heat deep in the Earth."

Suzannah Moran connected geology to geography. Look at how early pioneers settled the land. The Hagerstown Valley, for example, has a limestone floor.

"Farming on top of limestone tends to be a good idea. Hagerstown Valley has excellent soil development," said Suzannah Moran. "A lot of the decisions that people make on where to settle or what they can do ties back to geology."

Now that the book is complete, Means is working on another book, a novel this time, his seventh. The Morans are raising their children, Gwyndolyn, 8, and Oakley, 6, and building a timber-frame house.

The trio said they hoped their book would entice more people to examine local rock formations.

"I went down roads to see what I could find. I discovered places that I never knew existed," Means said. "I hope people see there's a lot in Maryland."

"You'll see many layers of rock are tilted," he said. "Ask your kids, 'Why are they tilted?' And if you see bent layers of rock, ask, 'How did solid rock get bent?' You can talk about plate tectonics. You can talk about plasticity, about rock under pressure and heat deep in the Earth."

Suzannah Moran connected geology to geography. Look at how early pioneers settled the land. The Hagerstown Valley, for example, has a limestone floor.

"Farming on top of limestone tends to be a good idea. Hagerstown Valley has excellent soil development," said Suzannah Moran. "A lot of the decisions that people make on where to settle or what they can do ties back to geology."

Now that the book is complete, Means is working on another book, a novel this time, his seventh. The Morans are raising their children, Gwyndolyn, 8, and Oakley, 6, and building a timber-frame house.

The trio said they hoped their book would entice more people to examine local rock formations.

"I went down roads to see what I could find. I discovered places that I never knew existed," Means said.

"I hope people see there's a lot in Maryland."



About the book

Author: John Means of Hagerstown, with illustrators Matthew Moran and Suzannah Moran, of Adamsville, Md.

Title: "Roadside Geology of Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C."

Description: Science book for general public, 344 pages, full color, $24, paperback

Website: Mountain-Press.com

Available locally at: Costco and at Barnes & Noble, both in Frederick, Md.

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