08/24/2015  |  By Geoff Camphire

“Seeing is believing” as the saying goes. But maybe more importantly, seeing is often understanding. In addition to using words and numbers, science teachers often find it useful to communicate ideas and information to students with visual presentations.

Visualizations — graphic representations of data — provide a powerful means of illuminating the interactions of Earth systems.

That’s why Earth Science Week 2015 will focus on the theme of “Visualizing Earth Systems.” During the 18th annual Earth Science Week — Oct. 11-17, 2015 — millions of people in all 50 states and around the globe will learn about the many ways scientists monitor and represent information about Earth systems including land, water, air and living things.

Through this theme, you and your students can explore what it means to see our planet through eyes informed by the geosciences. Earth scientists are finding innovative ways to not only examine natural phenomena, but also present that information to professional, educational and other audiences. In addition to tools such as telescopes and microscopes, we also can view and map changes in natural systems through new avenues such as computer games, smartphone apps and online videos.

A major addition to this year’s celebration will be the launch of a new “Visualizing Earth Systems” web page, linking educators to visualizations they can use in instruction. You are invited to submit the URLs for your favorite online geosciences visualizations to [email protected]. Look for the debut of the new page on the Earth Science Week website ( this fall. In October, science teachers and students across the country and around the world will be viewing and creating visualizations, conducting classroom activities, preparing competition projects, and visiting parks, museums and science centers. Each year, AGI reaches more than 50 million people through the Earth Science Week campaign promoting better understanding of Earth science and stewardship of the planet. You’re invited to join the celebration.

Glimpsing Possibilities

What does Earth Science Week have to offer you and your students? Visit the program website ( for ideas, activities and instructional resources.

See the website for webcasts and other offerings. The Big Ideas of Earth Science videos, for example, are brief clips covering nine key concepts of the geosciences. The Earth Science Literacy Initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation, has codified these underlying understandings of Earth science. Online links provide related activities that students can conduct to further explore these ideas.

Students and others also can enter AGI’s Earth Science Week contests. The photography contest, open to all ages, focuses on “Earth Systems Interacting.” Students in kindergarten through grade five may enter the visual arts contest, “Picturing Earth Systems.” In addition, students in grades six through nine can enter the essay contest, which highlights “Earth Science Visualization Today.” Information on rules and prizes is online.

Find over 70 instructional resources available in Spanish as well as English. Peruse new links for information on geologic mapping. Check out events taking place in your area. Explore a nationwide map and database of geoscience agencies, companies, and other organizations offering Earth science expertise information.

For the classroom, you can search an online collection of more than 120 mapping and other learning activities that support the Next Generation Science Standards. To find the perfect activity for your lesson, just click on “Search Classroom Activities.” Search by grade level and science education standard. Maybe most useful, you also can search among 24 categories of Earth science topics from energy and environment to plate tectonics and weathering.

In addition, this year’s Earth Science Week Toolkit and website provide more than a hundred lessons, materials, and links on Earth science. To receive the Toolkit, including the Earth Science Week poster and dozens of other materials, order online or call 703-379-2480.

Seeing Results

During the week, take advantage of opportunities available for anyone connected to teaching and learning about geoscience. Follow Earth Science Week on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the program’s monthly e-newsletter to receive updates on free resources and opportunities. Teachers can use the program web site as a gateway to information and resources, such as webcasts, links to nearby partner organizations, citywide celebrations, and special “Focus Days” (see sidebar) during Earth Science Week.

Conduct a hands-on activity with your students. Invite a local geoscientist to your classroom. Sign up for the monthly e-newsletter for information on upcoming opportunities. Get involved in a “citizen science” project where you help collect data contributing to nationwide or global research. Students can enter one of this year’s contests. Search for events in your area and participate in this year’s celebration. See the “Big Ideas” videos and activities online to build your understanding of the core concepts of geoscience. Have a great Earth Science Week!

Geoff Camphire is Earth Science Week Program Manager at the American Geosciences Institute. For more information, visit or email [email protected].


Take part in activities all week long emphasizing different areas of the geosciences on “Focus Days” during the Earth Science Week 2015:

  • Sunday, Oct. 11. EarthCachers take part in geocaching “treasure hunts” for International EarthCache Day, hosted by the Geological Society of America. EarthCache events are being held around the world. Use a GPS, find a location of geoscientific significance, and learn about Earth science.
  • Monday, Oct. 12. Earth Science Literacy Day focuses on videos illustrating the field’s “Big Ideas” and related activities. The brief video clips bring to life the big ideas of Earth science — the nine core concepts that everyone should know.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 13. No Child Left Inside Day invites young people to go outdoors, feel the soil under their feet, and learn about Earth science firsthand. A free online guide provides everything you need to start planning your own event, including activities designed specifically for elementary, middle, and high school students.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 14. The National Park Service and AGI are collaborating to conduct the sixth annual National Fossil Day. Celebrate the scientific and educational value of fossils, paleontology and the importance of preserving fossils for future generations. And look for fossil-themed activities and materials in the Earth Science Week 2015 Toolkit.
  • Thursday, Oct. 15. The Association for Women Geoscientists and other groups urge you to share the excitement of geoscience careers with young women, underrepresented minorities, and others on Geoscience for Everyone Day. Educators are encouraged, for example, to invite a female or minority geoscientist to speak in the classroom.
  • Friday, Oct. 16. Hosted by a consortium of geoscience organizations, Geologic Map Day promotes awareness of the importance of geologic mapping for education, science, business and public policy. A poster featured in this year’s Toolkit, as well as online, provides a geologic map, plus step-by-step instructions for a related classroom activity.
  • Saturday, Oct. 17. Program partner Archaeological Institute of America brings Earth Science Week to an eventful climax with International Archaeology Day. Whether it is a family-friendly archaeology fair, a guided tour of an archaeological site, a simulated dig, or a classroom visit from an archaeologist, this hands-on event offers the chance to indulge your inner “Indiana Jones.”
For more information on Focus Days, including a wealth of teaching and learning resources, see Earth Science Week online at
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