2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 6:00 PM-8:00 PM


PARHAM, Thomas1, CERVATO, Cinzia2, REED, Joshua2, KEANE, Christopher M.3, PEART, Leslie4, ROSS, Robert M.5, SCOTCHMOOR, Judith G.6, SEBER, Dogan7, SNYDER, Walter S.8 and SPRINGER, Dale9, (1)Geosciences, University of Iowa, 121 Trowbridge Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242, (2)Dept. of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State Univ, 253 Science I, Ames, IA 50011, (3)American Geol Institute, 4220 King St, Alexandria, VA 22302-1502, (4)Joint Oceanographic Institutions, 1201 New York Ave NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005, (5)Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, (6)UC Museum of Paleontology, Univ of California, 1101 Valley Life Sciences Building #4780, Berkeley, CA 94720-4780, (7)San Diego Supercomputer Center, Univ of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0505, La Jolla, CA 92093-0505, (8)Department of Geosciences, Boise State Univ, 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725, (9)Geography and Geosciences, Bloomsburg University, 400 E. Second Street, Bloomsburg, PA 17815, thomas-parham@uiowa.edu

Many students struggle with the concept of deep time. The difference between millions and billions of years is only one letter and a factor of 1000 but to conceptually grasp such large numbers is very challenging for most non-geoscientists. Yet, understanding of this central geoscientific concept is crucial to learning in Earth sciences, and the National Science Education Standards recommend instruction on geologic time as early as 5th grade. The difficulties experienced by many undergraduate students may stem from the way these concepts are taught in grade school, as shown by a recent extensive study of students' ideas about geologic time and Earth history that has identified a number of significant misconceptions (Libarkin et al., 2005).

As part of its E&O initiatives, the CHRONOS System partnered with a number of teacher groups to identify which specific ideas or misconceptions should be addressed in both formal and informal education. Using a modified subset of the Geoscience Concept Inventory used by Libarkin et al. (2005), adapted for use with two groups (6th-8th graders and 9th –12th -grade students and teachers), CHRONOS created an online anonymous questionnaire available at www.chronos.org. The questionnaire consists of demographic questions and 17 (11 for 6th -8th graders) science questions. Since it was deployed in April 2005, more than 150 teachers and some 50 students have responded to the questionnaire. Teachers from 35 states with degrees varying from Earth science to Theatre submitted their responses. While 94% of them correctly identified the Earth as more than 4 billion years old, nearly 70% believe carbon dating is used to determine this figure. More than 50% believe that the Earth has shrunk or expanded through time and 8% believe that scientists cannot tell the size of the Earth.

The CHRONOS System is an NSF-funded geoinformatics project dedicated to the development of a network of data and tools for sedimentary geology and paleobiology. The continually growing body of temporally and spatially defined research-level scientific data and of top-notch scientists involved in the project represents a great opportunity to explore ways to communicate the concept of deep time to the general public, an important component of CHRONOS's education and outreach efforts.