She arrives toting a backpack, loaded with the gear and tools of the miner’s trade -- hard hat, safety glasses, orange vest, compass, rock hammer, sample bag, notebook, hand lens -- and invites one lucky student to suit up. She scatters ore around the playground for students to scoop up, take home, and identify the minerals within. She engages students in educational, hands-on activities, including mining gold, silver and copper beads from birdseed and chocolate chips from cookies. Then she teaches them that in a miners’ world cleaning up during and after mining -- reclamation -- is very important.
Exhilarating and eye-opening for the students, it’s all in a day’s work for Pamela A.K. Wilkinson, education outreach coordinator for the University of Arizona Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources.
Wilkinson has received the 2014 Prazen Living Legend Award from the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, Colorado.
Located in a former silver mining boomtown atop the Rocky Mountains, the National Mining Hall of Fame presents this award to individuals and organizations committed to educating the public on the importance of minerals and the mining industry. Wilkinson is only the second individual to receive the award since it was established in 1995.
Wilkinson accepted her award, a bronze statue of a miner created by renowned sculptor Gary Prazen, at the Hall of Fame’s 27th annual induction banquet on September 13 in Denver.
“I am honored that the National Mining Hall of Fame has recognized my outreach work for the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources,” Wilkinson said. “Exciting young people about minerals, geology and mining has been the capstone of my career.”
That career has been diverse and impressive, particularly for a woman who entered geology in the early 1970s. She earned a bachelor’s degree in geology and teacher certification at the College of William and Mary, and a master’s in geology from Eastern Kentucky University, before working for several years as an industrial minerals geologist in private industry and as a geologist for the Arizona Geological Survey. Always drawn to teaching, she became a volunteer teacher and scientist in residence for grades K-6 over the next 15 years.
In 2011 she joined the UA Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources as education outreach coordinator. The position is funded by the Mining Foundation of the Southwest -- whose American Mining Hall of Fame is separate from the National Mining Hall of Fame.
While inspiring young children with engaging activities is part of her program, most of Wilkinson’s time is spent in middle and high school classrooms. She introduces students to modern mining practices, presents her traveling mineral museum and gives lessons on Arizona’s unique ore deposits, sustainable mining practices and mining career opportunities.
“With her vast experience in the mining industry and education, and her remarkable ability to captivate young people, Pam Wilkinson is a treasure for the people and state of Arizona,” said Mary Poulton, director of the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources and former head of the UA department of mining and geological engineering.
In photo at top: Roger A. Newell, board member of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, presents Pam Wilkinson with the 2014 Prazen 'Living Legend' Award, recognizing her education outreach work for the UA Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources.