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

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM


NYMAN, Matthew1, ELLWEIN, Amy1 and MEYER, Grant2, (1)Earth & Planetary Science/Natural Science Program, Univ of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, (2)Earth and Planetary Sciences, Univ of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, mwnyman@unm.edu

Science courses for science educators offer a unique opportunity to break free from the standard lab/lecture class format. We report on development of a field-based geology class designed specifically for middle school science teachers that emphasizes the process of science with a specific content focus on river systems. We emphasized basic observational skills, simple data collection techniques, and simple data analyses. The first day consisted of hands-on map exercises and a short lecture on fluvial systems. The second day was a field reconnaissance of the Jemez River basin, emphasizing field observations and note-taking skills. The next two days were spent in the field measuring discharge and bed shear stress at three field sites to investigate how these variables change in different reaches of the stream. One of the specific investigations was determining whether measured discharge from two tributaries of the Jemez River was equal to the measured discharge below their confluence. Teacher groups were given a handout describing the types of data to collect and a general description of data collection methods, but were not given a “cookbook” set of instructions. They were asked to formulate a plan and decide which tools they would need to perform measurements. Teachers found that the planning stage made them uncomfortable initially, but eventually concluded that “once we had a procedure figured out, getting the measurements was not too difficult and was actually fun.” On the last day of class, we modeled the “full circle” of the scientific process by sharing, analyzing and interpreting data. Specifically, the students found that bed shear stress was consistent with measured cobble sizes in the stream bed and that discharge below the confluence was approximately equal to the sum of discharge on the two branches. Many teachers had never participated in true scientific inquiry, but appeared to relish the opportunity: “I like challenges and I really appreciate that I was allowed to work it through with some assistance from the instructors.” We propose that this type of inquiry approach where students are required to function as scientists, which involves both the tension and success of the scientific process, not only models the true nature of science but also enhances understanding of both process and content.