Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Learning Mathematics and Earth System Science.Via Satellite

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Learning Mathematics and Earth System Science.Via Satellite

Article excerpt


As humans continue to subject the global environment to greater levels of stress and demand, it is paramount that young children appreciate the significance and interdependent nature of the Earth system. We describe and explore the potential impact of one curriculum program, Earth Systems Connections (ESC), upon student learning and engagement. ESC aims to provide integrated learning opportunities for K-5 students across a diverse range of cultural backgrounds that will help them: 1) recognize the interconnected nature of the Earth's systems; 2) appreciate the technological tools (e.g. remote sensing imagery and analysis techniques) that scientists use to conduct Earth system science; 3) recognize the extent to which mathematics, science, and technology are not only connected to each other, but also can help to understand natural phenomena; and 4) cultivate a spirit of curiosity and confidence in themselves as emerging thinkers and scientists who will be responsible for setting research and policy priorities in the decades to come. Empirical evidence indicates that the use of satellite imagery and other rich pedagogical contexts within the ESC curriculum are effective means of elaborating mathematics and science topics for young children and their teachers.


We present here a research-based article that illuminates promising techniques, curricular approaches, and specific environmental learning contexts for teaching mathematics and science in the early grades. We first introduce a curriculum program for integrated mathematics and science at the early grades, Earth Systems Connections (ESC), that utilizes satellite remote sensing technology as a primary mechanism through which important mathematics and science topics are learned to foster understanding of the Earth system among K-5 children (Vierling et al., 2005). After introducing this conceptual framework, we then share empirical evidence and beginning interpretations from a large data record in order to illuminate several possibilities of teaching and learning of mathematics and science in an Earth system context through the use of readily available remote sensing images and related technology.


Math, science and society in the 21st century - People are changing the planet at an accelerating rate, a rate so brisk it is unsustainable. Already, humans (1) have transformed 1/3-1/2 of Earth's land surface; (2) have added 30% more CO2 to the atmosphere than before the Industrial Revolution; (3) use more than half all available fresh water; (4) have overexploited all the world's marine fisheries; and (5) have pushed extinctions to 100-1000 times their background rate (Vitousek et al., 1997). A clear sign of human domination is that the three most abundant plants on the planet are rice, wheat, and corn.

The collective intelligence that gave us the power to engineer such planetary changes also enables us to exercise that power as responsible stewards of the planet upon whose ecosystem services we depend. For example, New York City recently faced the prospect of building expensive water filtration plants to purify water from its degraded watersheds, which would have run the city between $6 billion and $8 billion in construction costs. As an alternative, however, the City found that by investing $1.5 billion in buying land around intact watersheds in upstate New York, it could not only avoid building the filtration plants due to the natural water purification that occurs "free of charge" in healthy ecosystems, but could enhance recreation and wildlife habitat as well (Stapleton, 1997). Collectively, the "value" of such ecosystem services worldwide has been conservatively estimated to represent $33 trillion in services annually (Costanza et al., 1997), and the increased human pressure on these services will necessitate creative development strategies. …

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