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

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


TERAN, John, Dept. of Science, Arbor View High School, 7500 Whispering Sands Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89131, ROWLAND, Stephen, Department of Geoscience, Univ of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Box 454010, Las Vegas, NV 89154-4010 and BUCK, Paul E., College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Nevada State College, 1125 Nevada State Dr, Henderson, NV 89015, jrteran@interact.ccsd.net

In rapidly expanding Las Vegas Valley, Shadow Ridge H.S. opened in 2003 next to a famous Pleistocene paleontological locality. The Tule Springs site was excavated in the early 1960s, yielding mammoths, horses, camels, bison, sloths, and other Late Pleistocene fossils, together with a few artifacts. It was the 1st excavation in which radiocarbon dating was used during the project to guide the excavation. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it still contains unexcavated bones, fresh water invertebrate fossils, and human artifacts. One of the trenches, exposing a variety of strata and invertebrate fossils, is close enough to the high school for students to walk there, conduct some fieldwork, and return to their classroom within a 90-minute, block-scheduled, class period. The over-arching theme of the research being conducted by the high school students is the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna.

Earth science in Las Vegas has been a dumping ground for freshmen who are perceived to be academically and/or behaviorally unprepared for biology. The objective of our project is to use the close proximity of the Tule Springs site to develop an engaging, hands-on, advanced earth science curriculum as a pilot course at Shadow Ridge H.S., and use this course to begin an upgrade of earth science education throughout the district. The newly appointed principal of the high school was recruited as a co-PI on a proposal for an NSF Geoscience Education grant. The strategy has been to use an inquiry-learning approach wherever possible, and use the Tule Springs site as the students' field area. The classroom work utilizes EarthComm modules and laboratory activities, co-developed by AGI and NSF, and published by It's About Time, Inc.

We held a very successful “Geoscience Summit” in May 2005, including presentations by high school students to the general public; we have developed a very successful inquiry lab involving the interpretation of locally-excavated mammoth teeth; and many students have been enthusiastic about the project. In spite of the unusually favorable circumstances that have contributed to the successes of this project, we continue to struggle with familiar problems, such as teacher turnover, the schools poor understanding of grant management, and large class sizes.

This project is funded by NSF award #GEO0331249, with additional support from Nevada Power Company.