158 A Hazards Approach to Increase Awareness and Perceived Relevance of the Geosciences: Preliminary Results from a Project Designed to Enhance Diversity

Monday, 7 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Kathleen Sherman-Morris, Mississippi State Univ., Mississippi State, MS; and K. S. McNeal, J. Carroll, M. E. Brown, R. Clary, and J. Diaz-Ramirez

Handout (4.9 MB)

There are many reasons why members of underrepresented groups (including African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders) choose not to enter the geosciences. Some of these reasons are the lack of role models, lower perceived societal relevance of geoscience careers and a lack of awareness caused by limited exposure to geoscience subjects in high school. Recent research has indicated that knowledge of geoscience careers and majors is lower than knowledge of biology careers even in a sample of in-service science teachers. Teachers' perceived knowledge of environmental topics (e.g. relationships in the ecosystem) was also higher than their knowledge of geoscience topics such as weather and climate systems. These factors combine to suppress the level of information teachers are able to pass on to students regarding aspects of the geoscience the students might be interested in. As long as young minority students are not entering geoscience majors such as meteorology or geology, the fields will continue to lack role models working in the profession. To address these issues, this project accomplished several tasks. A survey of 645 undergraduate students examined student perception of three geoscience subfields (geology, geography, and meteorology) along with other sciences (biology, chemistry, engineering and physics) to compare factors such as whether a job in that field was likely to help the environment or society, and whether one could easily find a job and make good money. All three geoscience careers were seen as less helpful to society and the environment and not as likely to result in a good paycheck. Knowledge of available geoscience careers was also lower. To move toward fixing some of these issues, the authors invited a group of 12 science teachers to Mississippi State University to increase their knowledge of geoscience topics in meteorology, hydrology and geology. The workshop, called Hazards TEAMS, was funded by the National Science Foundation's Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity program with the goals of 1) increasing teacher's geoscience content knowledge 2) providing them with hands on activities to use in their classrooms, and 3) exposing teachers (and their students) to geoscience careers, and laboratories in geoscience and related disciplines on a college campus. This part of the project is in its early stages, but preliminary data show that the workshop was beneficial to the participants in providing a deeper level of geoscience knowledge. Teachers also enjoyed the hazards framework of the workshop because it allowed them to look at the geosciences from a “problem standpoint.” The results of evaluation data will show which aspects of the workshop were rated the highest as well as indicate if teachers gained a significant amount of knowledge in each of the three subjects (meteorology, hydrology and geology). An overview of the week's activities is discussed so others might integrate the successful elements into their own outreach programs.
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