165 The Status of Geoscience Education at the K-12 Level Under NGSS - Redux

Monday, 23 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Paul Ruscher, Lane Community College, Eugene, OR

Six years ago at the last AMS Seattle meeting, I reviewed a process that was designed to enhance K-12 Earth science education in Florida as a result of adoption of new state science standards.  This process culminated in a demise of Earth (and physics) education statewide that has had serious repurcussions in that state in terms of overall college readiness, but it is not isolated.  Now that the Next Generation Science Standards have been developed and accepted in over a dozen states, there are truly wonderful opportunities to focus on relevant education that is of interest to students and importance to society as a whole.  Emergency preparedness, geological hazards, climate change adaptation and mitigation, renewable energy work, and public health issues associated with pulmonary disease, infectious diseases, etc., provide tremendous opportunities for curriculum to reach into the life and physical sciences curricula, and to embellish Earth science offerings. 

But there are barriers, including the lack of teacher preparation programs in some states, a lack of professional development, the lack of undergraduate degree programs that provide solid scientific foundations for teachers in Earth sciences in some states (my own, Oregon, being an example), and a continuing bias amongst guidance counselors, admissions officers, and the scientific community outside of the geosciences that serves to protect their own interests rather than a broader approach to science first expressed in the twenty-year old National Science Education Standards, which theoretically gave Earth science equal footing to the life and physical sciences.  I survey the situation in Oregon in particular, having moved here from Florida four years ago - a true study of irony given Oregon's diverse biomes and natural geoscientific wonders, with a rich array of natural resources and hazards, and yet, no statewide effort (yet) to fully implement NGSS's opportunities in the Earth sciences, in spite of the state's lead role in the formation and adoption process.  

We as an atmospheric / geoscientific community must go further than we have to date to advance our ideas — into the field, into the biology, chemistry and physics classrooms, in order to get more students interested in taking geoscience classes, whether they be in high school, community college, or the university.  Only then will be able to truly tap a more diverse pool of students who have the curiosity about nature and their environment, but may never have seen the opportunity to apply it in a geoscientific setting.  This may be particularly true of students from smaller, rural areas lacking good science laboratory instruction.  We need more first generation in college students, more students from varied socioeconomic backgrounds, and we need to think of ways to do this organically, by tapping into genuine human interest in topics that we all know well and love to teach about.  Provide the natural hook that we all already use in our teaching.  And teach others about the true value that we can offer.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner