Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

A Field-Oriented Volcanology Course to Improve Earth Science Teaching

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

A Field-Oriented Volcanology Course to Improve Earth Science Teaching

Article excerpt


Volcanology for Earth Science Teachers (VEST), a teacher enhancement project conducted by the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH-Hilo), was funded by the National Science Foundation from 1994 to 1996. During the project, a total of 75 middle- and secondary-school Earth science teachers from Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California participated in the three-week summer workshop, which consisted of classroom sessions held at UH-Hilo and in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park plus field excursions to the five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii. In the VEST workshop, the teachers gained information and teaching ideas about volcanic processes, products, and features; volcanic and related hazards; and eruption monitoring and prediction. The teachers, who were selected through a competitive application process, were required to develop a lesson plan for a teaching activity related to volcanology, conduct an inservice program in their school district based on their VEST experiences, and contribute an article to the bi-monthly VEST newsletter. Project LAVA is a self-supporting educational program that continues to offer the VEST experience to all teachers.


Several studies have highlighted the national concern over improving science literacy (AAAS, 1989; Barinaga, 1990; Sedlock and others, 1995) and the lack of adequate training and skills of precollege earth science teachers (Ingersoll, 1996). Several national organizations have spear-headed innovative efforts to improve precollege earth science education (see Groat, 1991: Curtis, 1991; Stout, 1991; and Ireton, 1991) and several NSF-funded projects have created excellent teacher enhancement programs (see Carlson, 1990; Hoff and Leiker, 1992; and Metzger and Geary, 1992). The most successful teacher enhancement projects provide hands-on, activity-and/or field-oriented learning experiences and the opportunity for precollege teachers to interact with research scientists (Sheldon and others, 1983; Birnbaum and others, 1990; and Gibson and others, 1992). Pertinent hands-on experiences not only increase teacher knowledge of science, but they also reduce anxiety about teaching science, thereby effecting changes in attitude and teaching behavior (Martin and others, 1992).

The objective of VEST was to improve middle- and secondary-school earth science instruction by preparing teachers to effectively teach their students about volcanoes and related geologic principles and processes. The workshop was designed to make teachers knowledgeable about volcanoes, increase their confidence in teaching Earth Science, and excite them about the topic of volcanoes. The primary goals of VEST were to:

* improve the basic understanding of volcanic processes, the origin of different volcanic products, and the hazards associated with volcanoes,

* disseminate accurate and up-to-date information about volcanoes,

* provide hands-on experiences for teachers with volcanoes,

* provide teachers the opportunity to collect volcanic rock samples,

* provide teachers the opportunity to assemble a video and photo archive of their personal experience with volcanoes to share with their students,

* develop strategies and skills to improve Earth Science teaching,

* develop hands-on activities and instructional materials for classroom use, and

* publish a resource book available to all teachers interested in volcanoes


Participants to attend VEST were solicited through announcements mailed directly to every middle and high school in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. California teachers were sought through an announcement in the California Science Newsletter and through state science coordinators. Participants were limited to states with active volcanoes to maximize the impact of VEST on teachers and students that live in or near volcanic landscapes and may, during their lifetime, need to react to a volcanic crisis. …

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