2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:35 PM


HARNIK, Paul G., Education, Paleontological Rsch Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 and ROSS, Robert M., Paleontological Rsch Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850-1398, pgh3@cornell.edu

Limited financial resources, inadequate teacher professional development, and the prevailing belief that Earth science is less relevant to urban audiences, confound attempts to engage urban students in Earth science in formal educational settings. Students in these settings may also have fewer scientific enrichment experiences outside the classroom and as a result feel Earth science to be irrelevant to their daily lives.

The Paleontological Research Institution’s (PRI) mission is to make the history of the Earth and its life accessible to all audiences. To this end, we have offered outreach programming and professional development opportunities to Central New York’s urban elementary and secondary schools for the last four years. Grant support for these programs has allowed us to reach audiences that would not otherwise have been able to afford such experiences. PRI outreach programs draw on students’ intrinsic interest in fossils as a starting point for covering scientific processes and content across their curricula. The Collections Connections program was created to teach fifth grade students about natural history through the collection, curation, and exhibition of objects gathered from their schoolyard. The Earth Research Partnerships initiative at PRI engages upper elementary and secondary school participants in authentic paleontological research in collaboration with museum scientist educators.

External and internal evaluations have highlighted four pedagogical approaches that are fundamental to the success of PRI educational programming in urban schools: 1) Engaging students in authentic research experiences teaches them that science is something they can ‘do’; 2) Providing students with opportunities to touch and observe real materials to which they may not otherwise have exposure can catalyze learning; 3) Using local examples connects classroom content to students’ lives; and 4) Using interdisciplinary topics of interest can be a springboard for teaching across curricula.