Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Where Is Earth Science? Mining for Opportunities in Chemistry, Physics, and Biology

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Where Is Earth Science? Mining for Opportunities in Chemistry, Physics, and Biology

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The Earth sciences are newly marginalized in K-12 classrooms. With few high schools offering Earth science courses, students' exposure to the Earth sciences relies on the teacher's ability to incorporate Earth science material into a biology, chemistry, or physics course. "G.E.T. (Geoscience Experiences for Teachers) in the Field" is an exploratory program funded by the National Science Foundation aimed to increase teachers' geoscience interest and content knowledge. Participant teachers (n = 7) included non-Earth science teachers from underrepresented groups and/or high schools with a high percentage of students from underrepresented groups. A variety of quantitative and qualitative measures assessed changes in teachers' readiness and propensity for incorporating geoscience concepts into their current curricula. Findings are compelling, though these results are based on a small sample of teachers. In light of current politics, where Earth science is largely disregarded, professional development workshops like this one can help science teachers become knowledgeable enough to incorporate and expand on geosciences connections in biology, chemistry, and physics.

© 2013 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/12-319.1]

Key words: secondary teachers, curriculum

INTRODUCTION

Although the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) place the geosciences on par with the physical and life sciences, the Earth sciences are currently marginalized in K-12 classrooms: Only 7% of the nation's high school students take Earth science courses (Lewis and Baker, 2010). With few high schools offering Earth science courses, students' exposure to the Earth sciences relies on the teacher's ability to incorporate Earth science material into a biology, chemistry, or physics course. However, few teachers have sufficient background in the geosciences to understand the complexity and rigor of Earth system science and its connectivity to other science disciplines. Moreover, the general public believes that Earth system science courses do not include the rigor, depth, and breadth of biology, chemistry, or physics courses (Hoffman and Barstow, 2007).

Lewis and Baker (2010) reviewed the last seven years of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and found no studies "directly related to the issue of advancing geoscience education as a part of scientific literacy, the problem of low K-16 student enrollment and class offerings, or the national supply of geoscience teachers" (p. 122). Further, Lewis and Bakers examination of the subject index of the Journal of Geoscience Education revealed limited research that addressed K-12 geoscience education and the preparation of secondary Earth science teachers. Though some studies focused on geoscience professional development for teachers, these programs included only Earth science teachers.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The Earth sciences are increasingly marginalized. In fact, geosciences are now the most underrepresented area in all of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas. Many schools in the United States disregard the geosciences while considering them less rigorous than other laboratory-based science classes (Underwood, 2008). According to the 2003-2004 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), just 10% of high school science teachers identified their main teaching assignment as Earth science. Of that 10%, about half noted that Earth science was their only teaching assignment (Morton et al., 2008). High schools typically require only two or three science credits for graduation requirements, and in Oklahoma, high schools encourage students to take biology, chemistry, and physics to complete their science requirements. Little to no mention is given to Earth science (Oklahoma State Department of Education, 2010). Some state policies, however, require an Earth science course. For example, 67% of all New York ninth graders take an Earth science class (American Geological Institute, 2002). …

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