2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:20 PM


PETCOVIC, Heather L., Geosciences Dept, Western Michigan University, 1187 Rood Hall, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008 and NAGY-SHADMAN, Elizabeth A., Department of Geological Sciences, California State Univ, Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330-8266, heather.petcovic@wmich.edu

Earth science courses for future teachers should enable students to develop a deep understanding of the material. But future teachers require more than mastery of content; they also must understand how this content is best taught to children. Current reform efforts emphasize teaching through inquiry, especially at the elementary level. Future elementary teachers also need to know what ideas (and/or misconceptions) children hold about earth phenomena, and they need to be aware of their own misconceptions so these are not propagated to new learners. Additionally, future K-8 teachers need to develop understandings of how scientists pose questions and construct new knowledge (NOS - nature of science). To further complicate matters, many future elementary teachers lack confidence in their ability to understand and teach science. Thus the needs of future K-8 teachers differ significantly from non-science majors taking an introductory geoscience course. These needs can be addressed through both formal instruction and informal teaching opportunities. Western Michigan University has initiated a series of laboratory-based science courses specifically designed for future K-8 teachers. Earth Science for Elementary Educators is a two-course sequence that covers the atmosphere, weather, and climate (Course 1) and plate tectonics, earth materials, surface processes, and geologic time (Course 2). The class format is designed to model inquiry instruction in an elementary classroom, and the majority of instruction is hands-on activities (many are adaptable for elementary classrooms) supported by small group and whole class discussion, readings, and brief lectures. Close supervision from the instructor and collaborative group-work help to address lack of student confidence. Topics such as NOS, inquiry teaching, state and national benchmarks, and common elementary student misconceptions are explicitly addressed during instruction. At CSUN some of the laboratory earth science classes restricted to pre-service K-8 teachers have taught in the Tomorrow's Scientists Program, an after-school science program for middle school students. The experience of teaching science is very enlightening for these future teachers and increases the likelihood that they will teach science in their classrooms.