Geotimes

From the Editor

Earth science education is changing. New technologies, from data gathering to distribution, and an increasing focus on Earth systems and global change are redefining the character of earth science. National reform documents that include earth science content standards in grades K-12 and emphasize the evolving character of earth science have helped many state education departments (where the rubber meets the road) to recast, strengthen or, in some cases, reinstate their expectations for earth science literacy. Importantly, from the local to the national level, earth science education reform emphasizes inclusiveness, or earth science education for all students.
 
But as we all know, effecting change takes leadership, ingenuity, and persistence, coupled with lots of elbow grease. This year’s issue on geoscience education contains articles by people working at the forefront of change. Eric Riggs of San Diego State University and Steve Semken of Diné College seek to ensure that Native Americans factor into our concept of inclusive earth science education. This effort entails not only being good educators, but also understanding the scientific worldviews of other cultures. Their article describes new curricula and programs that bridge the gap between different perspectives on Earth and, in so doing, strengthen the Native American community and enrich the scientific and intellectual diversity of the geoscience community.
 
One participant at the first National Conference on the Revolution in Earth Science Education, held in July, questioned whether “three geologists could plan a two-car funeral.” The comment drew nervous laughter, because everyone who attended the conference, organized by Ed Geary of Colorado State University and Daniel Barstow at the Center for Earth and Space Science Education at TERC, got the point: how easy it is for earth scientists to meet and talk about what we need to do (especially when conferences are held in places as beautiful as Snowmass, Colo.!) — but how hard it is to create and enact a meaningful plan. In their article “A Blueprint for Earth Science Education,” Dan and Ed describe how our work at the Revolution Conference will yield a 10-year plan for enacting change and ensuring earth science education for all students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The article provides ample grounds for optimism that the geoscience community can in fact produce the roadmap, share the keys and arrive at our destination: a citizenry educated about Earth. And we can reach it with smiles on our faces.
 
Until recently, textbooks drove 90 percent of all K-12 earth science instruction at the secondary level. The American Geological Institute’s EarthComm and Investigating Earth Systems (IES) curriculum programs were featured at the Revolution Conference as alternatives to the mile-wide, inch-deep textbooks that dominate the market. Hundreds of people helped to create EarthComm and IES. but the real heroes of the development process are teachers like Cheryl Dodes of Queens, N.Y., and Lynn Sironen of North Kingsport, R.I. Cheryl and Lynn took on the challenge of testing drafts of the curricula (far less than perfect drafts, as this author can attest), providing valuable feedback about how the programs affected their students’ learning of and interest in earth science, and insights on how to improve the programs for the commercial edition. Both teachers continue their roles as agents of change in the reform of earth science education. As graduates of AGI’s Curriculum Leadership Institute, they are training teachers across the country.
 
Finally, I hope that you review this month’s Geomedia column, which calls your attention to the upcoming PBS television series Evolution. It’s hard to recall a time when the inclusion of evolution within the K-12 curriculum faced such serious threats as we see today. The Evolution series has tremendous potential to enhance the public’s understanding of evolution and the nature of science.
 
When I became a classroom teacher, it didn’t take long for me to learn that there are actually three certainties in life: death, taxes and education reform. Yet I hope that after reading the articles in this issue of Geotimes, you will share my conviction that we are in the midst of something remarkable: an education reform that the geoscience community can celebrate. This reform embraces the earth sciences, and it embraces all citizens. Who could ask for anything more?

Michael J. Smith
Guest editor for Geotimes and director of education for the
American Geological Institute
 


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