Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Designing and Implementing Earth Science Courses for a New Integrated Science Program for K-8 Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Designing and Implementing Earth Science Courses for a New Integrated Science Program for K-8 Teachers

Article excerpt


A state mandated change in the requirements for the preparation of future K-8 science teachers was viewed as an opportunity to build a new Integrated Science program at a modest-sized state university in the Midwest. The Earth/ space component is a four course sequence for thirteen credits guided by a conceptual framework that promotes the development of content and conceptual Earth systems knowledge, geoscience pedagogical knowledge, and understanding the critical role human beings play in the natural environment. Field-based Earth science education experiences are central to each course. Several formative and summative assessment approaches indicate that the Earth science courses have been effective. Measures of success include a greater than ninety percent pass rate on the state certification exam and students that are active in organizations, presenting at appropriate meetings and/ or publishing in peer-reviewed journals.


Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is a four-year public institution located 12 miles west of Grand Rapids, Michigan's second largest city. GVSU is the fastest growing state university with a current enrollment of about 26,000 students. The Geology Department has ten faculty, one full-time staff member, two visiting professors, one affiliate professor, and one part-time adjunct faculty. The department offers an Earth Science major, a B.S. in Geology, and contributes to the Integrated Science major. The number of students in each program is 63, 24, and 187, respectively. Two tenure-track faculty and one affiliate professor with tiaining in both geology and education and teaching experience at the K-12 levels are dedicated to staffing the Integrated Science courses.

Prior to 2003, a Group Science (geology emphasis) degree was offered to students with an interest in science, specifically Earth Science, and K-8 teaching. This program had 16 credits of geology and 22-24 credits in cognate sciences. In 2002, the state mandated that all teacher preparation for grades K-8 science be through a Science or Integrated Science program. A cadre of science education faculty at GVSU quickly guided a program through university and state review and began offering a new major in fall 2003. The core of the program is twelve credits each of life, Earth/ space, and physical science followed by Science in Elementary Education (focused on physical science), Ecology, and Teaching Science in the 21st Century (a capstone course) for a total of 43 or 44 credits.

The Earth/ space science part of the Integrated Science program is made of a 13-credit series of four courses (Geosphere for K-8 Teachers - GEO 201, Hydrosphere for K-8 Teachers - GEO 202, Weather for K-8 Teachers - GEO 203, and Astronomy for K-8 Teachers - PHY 205)designed to be inclusive of Michigan science standards. Class size is capped at 24 students. Geosphere for K-8 Teachers and Hydrosphere for K-8 Teachers are four credit courses that meet for three hours of "lecture" and three hours of lab. Weather for K-8 Teachers is a three credit course that meets four hours per week for "lecture" and discussion. Astronomy for K-8 Teachers is a two credit course that meets for three hours per week for "lecture" and discussion. Course instructors are rotated providing a different vision and varying the level of inquiry to which the students are exposed. For the most part, the teaching flows seamlessly between "lectures" (mostly interactive lectures and small-group and whole-class discussions), lab-type explorations, field trips, student presentations, and auricular development/ standard-based activities prepared by students.

These Earth/ space courses were designed specifically for pre-service teachers instead of using pre-existing general education courses that cover similar science content. Students in these courses can be at any point in the pre-service science course sequence, as it assumes no formal Earth science training/education beyond high school. …

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