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

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:15 PM


BARSTOW, Daniel and HADDAD, Nicholas, Center for Earth and Space Science Education, TERC, 2067 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140, dan_barstow@terc.edu

Nowhere is the human experience more interwoven with Earth’s natural system than in large cities. In connection with the construction and safeguarding of our cities, geologists, engineers, hydrologists, regional planners, meteorologists, and others have amassed a tremendous amount of data about the subsurface, topography, rivers and watersheds, atmosphere, and climate. With more than 75% of our nation’s children living in urban areas, one can imagine that these resources have been extensively tapped and transformed into materials that support Earth science education.

Rarely, however, have these resources been used by urban schools. The effort to connect the important concepts of Earth science to the lives and experiences of urban children is just beginning. Those of us in a position to take leadership in this area should continue exploring the unique ways in which Earth’s system directly influences the lives of urban children, and should respond with inquiry-based explorations.

At TERC we have taken an important step in this direction. In a partnership with publisher McDougal Littell, we have created a booklet titled Guide to Earth Science in Urban Environments (the Guide), which is being distributed as an ancillary with the publisher’s high school Earth science textbook. The Guide is organized around a set of six themes:

• Underground

• Water Supply

• City Site and Growth Patterns

• Natural Hazards and Disasters

• Climate

• Parks and Open Spaces

Each theme exemplifies a connection between Earth’s natural system and the urban environment. For each theme there is a case study with all of the necessary resources provided. Students use the case study to explore the theme in a specific city. In addition, there is a set of suggestions that teachers can use to develop similar investigations for their own cities. All of the activities support inquiry-based learning using real data.

The effort to gather the data necessary to explore a theme locally is one that teachers and students can share. For example, students can contact their local weather bureau to ask for climate data, or search for historic maps of their cities at a local library.

By infusing Earth science education with the rich opportunities available in urban environments we will provide engaging investigations for our nation’s students.