What Is Urban Geoscience Education?

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

To obtain an answer to the titular question, I encouraged geoscientists to share their urban educational experiences at the 2002 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting and collected their responses in this volume. These responses reveal a group united by their interest in making geoscience more inclusive but amazingly varied in nearly every other way. Their common interest manifests itself in two central beliefs: (T) that urban geoscience education more effectively serves urban residents (slightly more than 80% of the American population) and (2) that urban education encourages minority participation in the geosciences. The first belief reflects constructivist notions about the importance of the learner's environment and previous experiences, and the second belief reflects the desire to correct chronically low levels of minority involvement in the geosciences. These convictions spawned educational programs serving many different kinds of learners. Educators developed unique curricula to meet the needs of each audience, but most curricula incorporate content associated with the built environment. I list audience characteristics and examples of urban content in Tables 1A and 1B and provide summaries in the following paragraphs.

AUDIENCE

Urban geoscience education served many different kinds of learners (Tables IA and IB). Although most programs targeted an audience with a specific level of educational experience (e.g., elementary school students) at a specific location (e.g., Syracuse, NY), audience characteristics varied greatly from one program to another:

* Participants included elementary, middle, and high school students, undergraduates (both majors and non-majors), K-12 teachers (both pre-service and in-service), graduate students, realtors, and community members. Most participants were pre-college students or K-12 teachers.

* At least three programs served populations with substantial numbers of African American - (O'Connell et al. and Harnik and Ross), Hispanic (Birnbaum, O'Connell et al., and Harnik and Ross), and Asian American (Harnik and Ross) students. (Most manuscripts do not explicitly describe audience demographics.)

* Audiences were drawn from every corner of the nation except the Pacific Northwest and Florida and resided in cities varying greatly in population. These cities included the nation's largest combined metropolitan area (New York City, NY-NJ-CT-PA), other metropolitan areas containing populations of over one million, and communities as small as Ithaca, NY (population: 96,501). Most manuscripts describe programs conducted in metropolitan areas containing between 1.1 and 2.6 million people.

As illustrated by the preceding examples, urban geoscience education served learners with different levels of educational experience, some programs focused on minority learners, and program participants lived in cities both big and small. These varied audiences demonstrate the inclusiyeness of urban geoscience education. …