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Geotimes
 Published by the American Geological Institute
Newsmagazine of the Earth Sciences

September 2000


From the Editor

Welcome to the Geotimes special issue on geoscience education. This annual issue gives members of the geoscience community an overview of the major challenges we face in earth-science education and how we can work together to overcome those challenges. Our cover photo was taken during the American Geological Institute’s (AGI) first curriculum leadership institute — which brought together teachers and professors and scientists from state geological surveys — and provides an excellent metaphor for how the entire geoscience community can work together to increase opportunities for students to study Earth.
 
Curriculum remains a centerpiece of educational reform. Our ability to meet local and global challenges depends in large part on our success educating K-12 students and the public about the value of earth-science information to society as a whole. AGI has reached a milestone with the release of two K-12 curriculum programs that will expand and enhance earth science education. At the same time, curriculum is but one tool in the process of reforming earth-science education. It is now important to get AGI’s 35 member societies and individual geoscientists  to help implement the curricula.
 
Teacher professional development is a key component of educational reform. In the first feature, Michelle Hall-Wallace describes a variety of efforts that connect University of Arizona undergraduate and graduate students with Arizona K-12 teachers. Wallace’s program, one of 31 projects funded by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate K-12 Teaching Fellowships program, is making excellent headway toward improving science teaching from kindergarten through graduate school. Her program, she says, could only happen in a university where science education is a priority, and she describes how the university’s College of Science has bolstered its science education staff.
 
Taking on professional development at the policy level in his Political Scene column, David Applegate reviews the debates in Congress over how our (your) federal education dollars are spent. At the center of political discussion is a move to put funds dedicated to the Eisenhower Professional Development Program and Eisenhower National Clearinghouse into block grants to states. The change could allow states to take monies that currently fund training programs for math and science teachers and use that funding for other projects, such as playground construction.
 
The Bay Area Earth Science Institute at San José State University is an exemplary model for engaging geoscientists in the process of reform. Richard Sedlock and Ellen Metzger describe how they and colleagues within the institute have found the most effective methods for reaching teachers. They offer advice for how geoscientists can become involved in their communities.
 
National standards for science education emerged in the 1990s through extensive consensus-building processes involving thousands of stakeholders; yet states enact reform as they see fit and, in the case of last year’s debacle in Kansas, in ways inconsistent with the vision and intent of reformers. In this month’s Comment, geologist and Bible school teacher Michael Howell reveals how scientists and science educators negotiated the treacherous slopes of keeping evolution in South Carolina’s K-12 state science standards. By taking a proactive role, geoscientists ensured that the voice of the geoscience community was heard throughout the review and adoption process — and evolution remained in the standards.
 
Kathryn Johnson addresses the challenges of creating and maintaining a diverse workforce in science, engineering and technology. She is vice chair of the congressionally mandated Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology Development. In July the commission released a report calling for action to increase the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in the science, engineering and technology workforce of the United States.

This month’s Geotimes reflects some of the many important issues within geoscience education. I think you’ll find its content encouraging, and I welcome your review and comment.
 
 

Michael J. Smith
Geotimes Guest Editor and AGI Director of Education
 
 

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