2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 3:05 PM


LINNEMAN, Scott, Geology Department, Western Washington University, 516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225-9080 and DEBARI, Susan, Geology Department, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225, scott.linneman@wwu.edu

National and state standards mandate that children learn Earth Science in grades K-8. Progress in the last decade has improved preparation of future elementary teachers to teach Earth Science. Research at NSF Centers for Teaching and Learning are expanding the knowledge base about how people learn Earth Science concepts. Teacher Professional Continuum projects are applying new research to teacher preparation and professional development. The North Cascades Olympic Science Partnership (NCOSP) is a NSF Math-Science Partnership between Western Washington University (WWU), three local community colleges, the Northwest Indian College, and 29 K-12 school districts in western Washington State USA. One of the partnership goals is to improve the teaching and learning of science with specific emphasis on the training of future teachers. To this end, faculty from the partner colleges developed a year-long science sequence for pre-service elementary school teachers and other non-science majors. The multi-year collaboration among ~20 faculty from these institutions produced three quarters of new curriculum in the sciences, including one quarter of Earth Science.

Matter and Energy in Earth Systems is a lab-only course that emphasizes concept construction and metacognition. The curriculum employs questioning, small group work, and small and large class discussions. Students learn concepts by doing the lab activities, but the group discussions that promote discourse and questioning among students is a crucial tool in the sense-making and solidification of those concepts. The instructor's role is facilitator and questioner. The curriculum focuses on a few “Big Ideas” that the developers identified in the planning stages. Introductory cycles include the concepts of heat and density and how these relate to Earth topography and the rock cycle. The course then develops the themes of matter and energy transfer in the Earth (plate tectonics) and in the atmosphere (weather / climate), and the central concept of geologic time. The course has pre- / post-assessments, as well as cycle exams and homework assignments.

Like many other universities which have courses specifically designed for pre-service teachers, our goal is to graduate elementary school teachers who are science literate and who value learning via inquiry.