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

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM


MANGO, Helen N., Department of Natural Sciences, Castleton State College, Castleton, VT 05735, helen.mango@castleton.edu

Geology is a key component of the Vermont Science Initiative (VSI), a three-year program for in-service elementary and middle school teachers that culminates in a Master of Arts degree in Science Education awarded by the Vermont State College system. Teachers who participate in the program have acknowledged that their own past education in science has been weak, and they know that their students have been shortchanged in science education as a result. In addition, as part of an on-going, comprehensive assessment of public education in Vermont, the state Department of Education has recently released the grade-level expectations (GLEs) for science, requiring teachers to take a more critical view of their own science content knowledge.

The VSI program consists of content courses in physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology and biology, as well as courses such as pedagogy, leadership and assessment. Geology is an integral part of the program for several reasons. (1) Some of the GLEs specifically call on earth science content (for example, the Earth Science GLEs for grades 7-8 include itemized topics such as plate tectonics, weathering, rock types, landforms, and the hydrologic cycle). (2) Geology provides excellent applications for some of the other GLEs. For example, a concept listed in the Physical Science GLEs for grades 1-2 is “solids have the properties of hardness, color, and the ability to maintain shape.” What better manifestation of this concept is there than minerals? (3) Most teachers are keen to use the natural environment in their teaching. Vermont is endowed with very varied geology, from Precambrian metamorphic rocks to Paleozoic shelf sediments to Recent glacial deposits, making all regions ideal extensions of the classroom.

The Vermont Science Initiative can be used as a model for other Masters-level programs designed to get more science teaching into elementary and middle schools.