Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:45 PM


PICKARD, Megan1, FURMAN, Tanya2, GUERTIN, Laura3, BEMBENIC, Meredith A.4, ENDRESS, Chira A.5, NEVILLE, Sara3 and HARTWELL, Bradley J.4, (1)Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 303 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802, (2)Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 333 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802, (3)Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063, (4)Energy and Mineral Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, (5)Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16801,

Middle school Earth Science teachers from several states participated in an extended professional development opportunity that included collaboration with Geoscience graduate students to incorporate more inquiry-based learning into the curriculum. We report on the positive aspects of this program for teachers, students and graduate students. The fundamental premise of our work is the recognition that science involves making observations of the natural world and coming up with a logical process-based interpretation of results. Researchers rarely know the outcome of their experiments and instead use tools they have developed to interpret their data and observations. In contrast science experiments in many K-12 classrooms are controlled to such an extent that the joy of discovery is lost; students are often told in advance what the outcome will be and then expected to confirm it. There are valid reasons for careful structuring of in-class experiences, and one confounding factor is often the teacher’s own lack of experience with true inquiry. For K-12 teachers seeking an approach to teaching science that more closely represents how science works in the real world, graduate students are valuable resources. As current researchers, graduate students see science as an adventure rather than something read out of a book. With proper preparation the teachers and graduate students successfully planned and implemented inquiry-based activities in the classrooms. In addition the teachers were able to form positive relationships with the graduate students to use them as future resources both for content information and as role models of life-long learning for the students. This project was funded by a National Science Foundation GEO-Teach grant.