Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Effectiveness of Geosciences Exploration Summer Program (GeoX) for Increasing Awareness and Knowledge of Geosciences

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Effectiveness of Geosciences Exploration Summer Program (GeoX) for Increasing Awareness and Knowledge of Geosciences

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

A continuing challenge in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is the recruitment of underrepresented groups in those fields in the workforce (see Vaidynathan, 1998; Snieder and Spiers, 2002; Mazumdar et al., 2006; Huntoon and Lane, 2007; Hoisch and Bowie, 2010; Sherman-Morris et al., 2013). The geosciences continue to have the weakest diversity record of the STEM disciplines and rank last for African Americans and Hispanics (NSB, 2010). Science and engineering indicators suggest that only 240 bachelor's degrees in the geosciences (out of 73,855 science degrees) were awarded to underrepresented minorities (NSB, 2010). This is consistent with earlier reports that only 3% of geosciences bachelor degrees were awarded to Hispanic Americans and 1% to African Americans, and the graduate rate for underrepresented groups is even lower for advanced master's and doctoral degrees (Drummond, 2004). Although the number of degrees awarded to underrepresented minorities in the ''basic'' sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) has increased, the number of geoscience degrees awarded to all students has actually declined, and participation rates by underrepresented minorities have not improved. As noted in the American Geophysical Union's Diversity Plan (AGU, 2002), ''racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities are under-represented as scientists.... [They] can bring insights, perspectives, and talents into our programs....'' Increased participation by these underrepresented groups in college and university, and particularly in the geosciences, depends on innovative and effective recruitment and retention practices. Summer research experiences can help bridge the gap brought about by income, geographic location, and prior exposure to the geosciences (e.g., Miller et al., 2007; Baber et al., 2010).

Exposure of interested high-school students to content and careers in the geosciences has proven to be an effective pipeline for encouraging underrepresented students to enter undergraduate programs (Miller et al., 2007). Across the country, geoscience courses (including earth sciences, human geography, and environmental science and studies) are rarely required in high-school science curricula (see Schmidt, 2013), and only 22% of graduating high-school students in 2005 had taken a geoscience course, compared with 92% having taken a biology course (Gonzales et al., 2009). Before 2009, there were no geoscience requirements for students after middle school in Texas, and classes in earth and space science, environment systems, advanced placement (AP) environmental science, and AP human geography are only available as geoscience-related electives in some schools (Texas Education Agency, 2005). Revisions to the state's ''Recommended High School Graduation Plan'' led to an earth and space science course that was an option for one of the four sciences required for graduation in addition to environmental science and human geography where offered. However, students were also able to take courses in astronomy and aquatic science, which are not necessarily gateways to the geosciences. The lack of geoscience-related courses in high school is compounded by the relatively few teachers with either a geoscience degree or exposure to the geosciences during their undergraduate degree (Levine et al., 2009; McNeal, 2010). Few teachers are able to confidently expose their students to the geosciences directly or indirectly through traditional STEM classes. A 2013 change in the Recommended High School Graduation Plan no longer requires four science courses for the minimum and recommended high-school graduation plans, but they remain an option for those students completing a distinguished graduation plan. Few high-school students in Texas take geoscience-related courses at those schools fortunate enough to be able to offer them as science electives.

Despite the economy of Texas being deeply rooted in geological resources onshore and offshore and the susceptibility of the state to severe weather (hurricanes and drought), it has been the experience of the authors that there is a lack of exposure and awareness about the geosciences. …

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