2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM

Improving High School Earth Science Instruction through Integrating An Earth Systems Science Matrix

NARKIEWICZ, Marielle R.1, CHARLES, Laura2, KLEIN, Cindy2, FURMAN, Tanya3 and GUERTIN, Laura A.4, (1)Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, (2)Tunkhannock Area High School, Tunkhannock, PA 18657, (3)Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 333 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802, (4)Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063, mrn134@psu.edu

It is important for students to understand that the Earth works as a system. However, teaching Earth as a system is not commonplace in the high school curriculum, as Earth science is often broken into parts for ease of teaching. When providing instruction about each of the Earth's systems in separate units, the teachers at Tunkhannock Area High School in Pennsylvania found that the students relied on memorization and would forget the information as soon as it was taught. To integrate the idea of the Earth operating as a system, the Earth science teachers at Tunkhannock work throughout each semester to have their students form the connections between the systems through the completion of the 'Earth Systems Matrix."

At the beginning of each semester, the Tunkhannock Earth science teachers hand each student a matrix that outlines each of the Earth's spheres. Across the top and down the left side are listed lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, exosphere, biosphere and anthrosphere. The matrix has open boxes in the center to allow the students to write examples of how each sphere can act on and interact with all the other spheres. Throughout the semester, students are asked to add to their matrices how best to describe the primary mechanisms that act on each sphere. For example, greenhouse gases from the anthrosphere negatively affect the hydrosphere by thinning the ice sheets.

The students have been able to more easily remember and understand the spheres and what surrounds them. Comparing a class that did not receive the matrix to a class that has, there has been an overall improvement in student participation and comprehension; and while confounding variables may influence this, it is an objective reflection. The students realize that each sphere tells a story, and that the students and teachers are the storytellers.