Tag Archives: geoscience

Earth Educators’ Rendezvous

Last month, I attended the Earth Educators’ Rendezvous in Albuquerque where I participated in the Geoscience Education Research and Practice Forum. Approximately 40 geoscience educators and researchers gathered for four days to prioritize grand challenges in geoscience education research and recommend strategies for addressing the priorities.

Both in small working groups and large group feedback forums, we discussed research on students’ understanding in geology, and environmental, ocean, atmospheric, and climate science; research on K-12 teacher education; Earth and societal problems; access to underrepresented groups; cognitive science unique to geoscience (e.g., quantitative reasoning, temporal reasoning, spatial reasoning); instructional strategies to improve learning; and research on institutional change.

In the evenings to clear my mind, I took to the hills—literally—and was amazed by the local geologic landforms!

Amy Pallant at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1000 feet thick.

Basalt cobbles at Petroglyphs National Monument created by a lava flow around a hill (that has since eroded).

Back at the meeting, I was in the working group focused on research on instructional strategies to improve geoscience learning in different settings and with various technologies. Because this topic is so broad, developing a list of grand challenges brought up a wide range of ideas. In the end, we narrowed our list to six grand challenges and began to outline strategies to address them.

The ideas developed will be presented at AGU and AGI this fall, and members of each group will be writing white papers. I’m hopeful that the product of this work will be like the influential Earth and Mind II, with the geoscience education research field and educators benefiting similarly.

The Earth Educators’ Rendezvous and the nearby landscapes were both inspiring. No wonder they call New Mexico the land of enchantment.

Geological models to help students explore the Earth

Geoscience poses many questions. Why are there continents and oceans? How do mountains form? Why do volcanoes form in some areas and not others? What causes earthquakes to be more frequent in some areas than others? Why are oil, diamond, gold, and other deposits clustered in particular areas rather than being spread evenly across the world?

Teaching geoscience poses significant challenges. Experiments with Earth’s geology are impossible, and many of the natural processes that shape Earth, such as sedimentation, folding, and faulting, take place out of sight, over unimaginably long time periods. We think that technology has the potential help to transform how geoscience is taught and understood.

From the people who brought you High-Adventure Science comes the GEODE (Geological Models for Explorations of Dynamic Earth) project. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the new project aims to design dynamic, interactive, computer-based models and curricula to help students understand how Earth’s surface and subsurface features are shaped. As in the High-Adventure Science modules, GEODE modules will incorporate real-world data and computational models, with a focus on making scientific arguments based on evidence.

The GEODE  project, a partnership between the Concord Consortium and The Pennsylvania State University, held a kickoff brainstorming session Monday, September 27. Principal Investigator Amy Pallant and Co-PI Hee-Sun Lee, both of the Concord Consortium, and Co-PI Scott McDonald of Penn State organized a meeting to begin developing a plate tectonics model to accompany the recently developed Seismic Explorer.

In Seismic Explorer, students can see patterns of earthquake data, including magnitude, depth, location, and frequency.

In Seismic Explorer, students can see patterns of earthquake data, including magnitude, depth, location, and frequency.

seismicexplorer-cross-section

Students can make a cross-section to see a three-dimensional view of the earthquakes in an area.

Professional geologists, geoscience educators, and software developers reviewed the currently available models and simulations of plate motion, earthquake waves, sedimentation, folding, and faulting, and discussed ways to make these concepts accessible to middle and high school students.

We look forward to sharing more models and activities as they are developed over the next few years!