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

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM


PETULA, Jason, School of Behavioral Sciences and Education, The Pennsylvania State University, W314C Olmsted Building, 777 West Harrisburg Pike, Middletown, PA 17057,

Earth science as a high school science course is under treat of extinction after years of mistreatment. It is not uncommon for people to perceive earth science as academically inferior to biology, chemistry, and physics. A reason for this perception may be that few adults had earth science as a high school course. Those that did have earth science were likely taught by an individual not certified in that subject.

Pennsylvania will soon adopt tests in biology and chemistry that students must pass to earn a high school diploma. This new version of high-stakes testing can lead districts to push earth science courses from high schools and insert them into middle schools. Few certified middle school science teachers have deep conceptual understanding of earth science phenomena. The future status of earth science is not promising, unless efforts are taken to restore its status.

This presentation starts with an overview of earth scientists working in the field. The Kikak-tegoseak quarry, located along the silt-choked Colville River on Alaska's frigid North Slope, is a rich source of Arctic dinosaur fossils. An expedition to the site revealed a dense fossil bed comprising hadrosaurs and pachyrhinosaurs remains; amongst others. The research team included a paleontologist, sedimentologist, ecologist, graduate students, and a high school science teacher.

Next, the presentation will highlight two lessons developed from that expedition that were used at the secondary and college level. The lessons model desired pedagogies aligned with reform efforts to change the way science is taught in schools. For example, Pennsylvania administrators are now required to complete targeted professional development to maintain their administrative credentials; this includes professional development in science education.

Conversations with school leaders involved in the professional development revealed startling patterns in perspectives and understanding of earth science; i.e., earth science is very misunderstood. Drawing parallels to the integrated approach used during the Arctic dinosaur expedition, saving earth science from extinction will require a multi-faceted approach.