A Celebration of Earth Science

The American Geosciences Institute’s Earth Science Week — and Beyond

03/30/2013  |  GEOFF CAMPHIRE

Earth science educators today find themselves at a crossroads. Public curiosity about headline-grabbing issues such as energy, climate change, natural disasters, and the environment has never been greater. Yet schools offer dwindling time and resources to teach about geoscience topics. How are teachers and students to make a priority of this pivotal subject?

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has an answer: Earth Science Week (www.earthsciweek.org).

AGI has organized this celebration of the Earth science during the second full week of October since 1998. Reaching more than 50 million people a year, Earth Science Week engages young people and others in learning about the geosciences and promotes responsible stewardship of the Earth. The program is supported by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, NASA, Esri, the AAPG Foundation, the American Geophysical Union, and other major geoscience groups.

Coming Oct. 13-19, 2013, is the 16th annual Earth Science Week. Millions of people in all 50 states and around the globe will conduct classroom activities, prepare competition projects, view instructional videos and webcasts, and visit national parks, federal agency facilities, university science departments, museums, and science centers.

Earth Science Week materials and activities are developed and guided by one of the nation’s leading teams of geoscience education professionals. A nonprofit federation of societies representing over 250,000 geoscientists, AGI has served as a trusted source of National Science Foundation-supported curricula, training, and programs in the Earth sciences for decades.

Resources Available Now

The theme of Earth Science Week 2013 is “Mapping Our World.” This year’s event promotes awareness of the many exciting uses of maps and mapping technologies in the geosciences and everyday life. Maps help show how earth systems — geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere — interact. Materials and activities explore the ways geoscientists, geographers, and other mapping professionals use maps to represent land formations, natural resource deposits, bodies of water, fault lines, volcanic activity, weather patterns, travel routes, parks, businesses, population distribution and more.

Visit the Earth Science Week Classroom Activities page http://earthsciweek.org/forteachers/bigideas/main.html for more than 120 free learning activities. All activities are aligned with national science education standards. Activities are organized and searchable by various criteria, including specific Earth science topics. Search by grade level, by science education standard, and among 24 categories of topics, from energy and environmental impacts to plate tectonics and weathering.

If you have Internet access, you can teach and learn about Earth science all year long. In addition to classroom activities, the Earth Science Week web site offers videos, Spanish-language resources, research projects, local events and organizations, and careers information.

How useful is Earth Science Week to educators like you? The program’s track record is well established through annual external evaluations. Comparing participation last year and plans for next year, for example, 90 percent of survey respondents say they plan to increase or maintain level participation, according to an independent evaluation recently completed by PS International.

Contests, Kits and More

Students can learn a lot by entering AGI’s Earth Science Week contests. Children in kindergarten through grade five may enter the visual arts contest, and students in grades six through nine may enter the essay contest. The photography contest is open to all ages. The contests — all focused on the theme of “Mapping Our World” — allow both students and the general public to participate in the celebration, learn about Earth science, and compete for prizes.

Teachers might want to prepare by obtaining an Earth Science Week Toolkit. The 2013 toolkit will become available in August 2013. In the meantime, previous years’ kits, covering topics from geoscience careers to climate and energy, are available now. All kits feature dozens of materials. For example, the 2012 Toolkit contains an Earth Science Week poster including a learning activity, an activity booklet, items on geologic time and careers, a genuine field notebook, climate resources, a geoscience careers poster, a detailed cloud chart, a GIS-in-science-education resource, brochures, bookmarks, fact sheets, postcards and more.

There is something special to do on each day of Earth Science Week. For example, the National Park Service and AGI are collaborating to conduct the fourth annual National Fossil Day on Oct. 16. Also, celebrate Geologic Map Day on Oct. 18. Hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Association of American State Geologists along with AGI, the event reinforces this year’s theme.

Leading up to the October celebration, more and more Earth Science Week events, both local and nationwide, will be listed online. For more ideas, read about successful past events or see recommendations on how to get involved. Visit the Earth Science Week web site also to find out about organizations in your community, educational activities, the monthly electronic newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, and much more.

Textbooks and More

AGI has created a comprehensive portfolio of geoscience educational materials:

Earth System Science in the Community. This high school curriculum, supported by the National Science Foundation, uses an inquiry approach to help students understand how the Earth works as a set of interdependent systems (www.its-abouttime.com/htmls/ec.html).

Investigating Earth Systems. To help middle-school students gain a solid understanding of the world in which they live, this standards-based Earth science curriculum emphasizes inquiry — testing ideas, observing phenomena, collecting data, using reasoning — and the interrelation of Earth systems (www.its-abouttime.com/htmls/ies.html).

K-5 GeoSource. Because elementary students need to learn Earth science too, this free web site offers content instruction, lesson plans, classroom activities, teaching resource links, downloadable images, cross-curriculum tips, assessment tools, career vignettes, literacy strategies, and more for teachers of kindergarten through grade five (www.k5geosource.org).

SEED Earth Science Week Online Toolkit. This web site — a partnership of Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development (SEED) and AGI — provides over 70 lessons, posters, fact sheets, and other resources in both Spanish and English (www.earthsciweek/seed/).

Earth Science Organizations. Use this online tool to identify potential geoscience partners near you, access relevant information, and network with AGI member societies, state geological surveys, agencies such as USGS and NASA, universities offering geology programs, parks, museums, and other Earth science groups (www.earthsciweek.org/gpn).

Pulse of Earth Science Education. This database tracks Earth science trends nationwide, including the most recent state-by-state data on teacher certification requirements, required courses for students, K-12 enrollment levels in Earth science, coverage of Earth science within state standards, state assessment in Earth science, textbooks adopted (www.agiweb.org/education/statusreports/).

Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award. Each year, this award recognizes one teacher from kindergarten to eighth grade for leadership and innovation in Earth science education (www.agiweb.org/education/awards/ed-roy).

Video Products

Earth and You. This DVD of short video chapters, covering important Earth science concepts for grades three through five, is accompanied by a Teachers’ Guide with content, investigations, and teaching tips (www.lab-aids.com).

Why Earth Science? For an exciting introduction to the geosciences, you can’t do better than this six-minute clip, featuring eye-popping cinematography and computer animation, now available for free on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxbIJH4fTYo) and TeacherTube (www.teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?video_id=47669).

Big Ideas in Earth Science. These brief video clips bring to life the “big ideas” of Earth science -- the nine core concepts that everyone should know — on YouTube (www.youtube.com/AGIeducation) and TeacherTube (www.teachertube.com/view_channel.php?user=AGIEducation). The Earth Science Week web site provides related resources, including dozens of classroom activities (www.earthsciweek.org/forteachers/bigideas/main.html).

For more information, contact the American Geological Institute, Education & Outreach Department, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302, [email protected].

For more information, contact Geoff Camphire, Outreach Programs Manager, American Geosciences Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302, [email protected].
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