Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:05 AM


RIDKY, Robert W., U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, MS 912, Reston, VA 20192,

Significant changes in geoscience education and outreach over the past 50 years are the result of a convergence of a number of transformational events in science, technology, politics and knowledge acquisition. The extraordinary accomplishments of the International Geophysical Year (1957-58), temporally coupled with the Sputnik Challenge initiated huge reforms in science education in the 1960’s. Over the ensuing decade, a ten-fold increase in the NSF budget supported the most comprehensive science curriculum reform effort in the nation’s history. Following reforms in physics, chemistry and biology, the Earth Science Curriculum Project (ESCP) was the last of the “new” science courses implemented. Benefitting from course curriculum development knowledge that preceded, ESCP incorporated new behaviorist and cognitive-based approaches toward learning. The content and a proto “systems” curriculum approach influenced all aspects and levels of geoscience instruction that, in large measure, continues through to today. Throughout the 1980’s, the influence of instructional design, expanded computer use, coupled with a constructivist theory of instruction allowed for greater interaction between students and the natural environment. Types of instructional activities and “authentic” experiences that could be used in a wide range of educational settings greatly expanded. This ever-widening spectrum of instructional possibilities was followed by a vision of science education that would make scientific literacy a reality for all - one that, with an equally capable citizenry, would allow United States to keep pace in the global market. This lead, in the mid 1990’s, to outlining what students need to know, understand, and be able to do to be scientifically literate at different grade levels. Multiple forms of these initiatives, all generally couched under the term “standards,” continue on, in various forms, to the present. Throughout the past fifty years, three professional organizations – the American Geological Institute, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, and Geological Society of America – stand out as exemplary facilitators of geoscience educational reform.