Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


ROSSBACH, Thomas J. and SAN JUAN, Francisco C., Department of Natural Sciences, Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, NC 27909,

Northeastern North Carolina lacks rock outcrops or mountains, and fossil-bearing sands are so young that their fauna look exactly like their modern descendants. There are no local science museums where these features may be seen, contributing to students’ lack of exposure to many basic geological phenomena. As a result, most students in this region do not consider pursuing Earth science education or set career goals in the geological sciences.

The TESTING (Teaching Earth Science to Inspire New Geologists) program was developed at ECSU to promote early interest in Earth science among underrepresented groups by providing hands-on geology and other Earth science instruction to middle school students from northeastern North Carolina. A summer workshop is run on the ECSU campus during each summer of a three year program (2010-2013) made possible by a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Twenty middle school students and six middle school teachers participate each summer, and middle schools also receive educational materials to help their classroom teaching of Earth science. The workshop integrates different methods of learning including: (1) classroom instruction of basic geological knowledge such as minerals, rocks, fossils, economic resources, volcanoes and earthquakes; (2) field trips allowing students to apply what they have learned by describing and interpreting actual Earth science settings; and (3) use of technology (computer modules) to solve more complex problems involving Critical Thinking and Problem Based Learning.

For the 2011 workshop, 85% of students responded they were more interested in learning science, 55% responded they are thinking of taking more science classes, and 58% responded they were thinking more about a science-related career. On a parent survey, 95% reported an increased interest in science by their child, and 74% responded that their child expressed an interest in furthering their pursuit of a particular area of science. Of those responding, 47% of students indicated “Geology” and 33% indicated “Earth Science” as preferred subjects. Tracking of the students through high school will allow a more definitive measure of the success of the TESTING program.