Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Raising Scholastic Achievement in Minority-Reached Classes through Earth Systems Teaching

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Raising Scholastic Achievement in Minority-Reached Classes through Earth Systems Teaching

Article excerpt


This article studies the effect of an Earth systems Science for All program intervention. This intervention was aimed at cultivating a sense of success and developing cognitive skills among students in classes with a dominant number of students from Ethiopian origin who are characterized by a low scholastic achievement level. The effect the earth systems approach curriculum was studied through a mix or quantitative and qualitative research tools. The battery of qualitative and quantitative research tools that were used in this study, enabled to the collection of data concerning the cognitive and affective outcomes of the implementation of the Earth systems science program. All the different sources of data consistently indicate a very positive influence of the earth systems based science program on the students in both cognitive and emotional domains. These findings were consistently supported by two different sources of information - students and teachers.


In the last two decades, Israel has absorbed a wave of immigration of Jewish people from Ethiopia. These immigrants were settled in segregated communities in urban areas. In general, in most of the cities the Ethiopian children who live in the neighborhoods attend the same school. As a result, there are several schools in Israel that are characterized by the dominance of a population from Ethiopian origin. These schools are characterized by a low scholastic achievement level as well. In contrast, it should be mentioned here that during the past decade there was also a large wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. Although these immigrants have their own integration and adjustment difficulties, they present significantly less learning difficulties than the students who are from Ethiopian origin. Thus, it seems that the adjustment difficulty of the students from Ethiopian origin is likely to be socio-cultural. The main difficulty for these students arises from the intercultural encounter in the school, which often leads to conflicts related to perceptions of abilities and different points of departure (Sever, 2000). Common teaching methods at school are based on linguistic and mathematical-logical understanding. Because of language difficulties and cultural differences the immigrant students in mixed classes have difficulties to express themselves, and therefore their situation even worsens.

Mayer (1995) contends that the "hard" science approach illustrates the severe limitations of the reductionist science for studying processes, as they occur in the real world. He therefore suggests to adopt an earth system education framework for the development of integrated science curricula. Specifically he refers to any physical, chemical, or biological processes that can and should be taught in the context from which the particular process was taken from in the earth systems.

Orion and Former (2003) have argued that the earth systems approach is ideal as a holistic framework for science curricula. The starting point is the four earth systems: geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. The study of cycles organizes earth systems education: the rock cycle, the water cycle, the food chain, and the carbon cycle. The study of these cycles emphasizes relationships among subsystems through the transfer of matter and energy based on the laws of conservation. Such natural cycles should be discussed within the context of their influence on people's daily lives, rather than being isolated to scientific disciplines. The earth systems approach also connects the natural world with technology: Technology transforms the raw materials that originate from earth systems. In contrast with traditional teaching approaches of science, the earth systems approach does not sequence the curriculum using topics from physics or chemistry. Instead, this approach organizes study in terms of systems and cycles as experienced in peoples' lives. …

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