Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 4:05 PM


LOCKE, Sharon, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Science Building Box 2224, Edwardsville, IL 62026,

Scientific investigation of the Earth has had a long history as a field-based practice, and it continues to be represented by images of sturdy individuals in remote areas with spectacular landscapes. While opportunities to collect data in the field generate interest and motivation for some individuals, the perception that field experiences are the foundation of the geosciences is a discouragement for others, including students with physical disabilities. This is unfortunate because the ongoing development of new analytical tools means that traditional modes of field work are becoming a less critical component of geoscience practice, and access to the geosciences as a career is possible for a broader population now than ever before. Awareness among educators at all levels is the key to overcoming misperceptions and improving participation.

Initiated in part because of federal funding programs to promote increased access to science for people with disabilities, beginning in the 1990s several organizations created programs to examine the barriers to participation and the steps that educators might take to support students with disabilities in the geosciences. Two programs—Access Earth and Earth System Science Works!—sought to address challenges that occur in high school, a time when students are exposed to career possibilities through in-school and out-of-school activities and when their ideas about educational pathways available to them begin to take hold. These field-based programs brought together high school students with disabilities and teachers to explore the real and perceived challenges of practicing the geosciences with a physical disability. The project teams identified promising instructional approaches and support mechanisms needed to help students participate in field-based projects and progress through high school and into postsecondary study in the geosciences. Findings related to practical and logistical considerations, school culture, and student and teacher attitudes are relevant to current efforts by the International Association for Geoscience Diversity and other organizations to increase participation of persons with disabilities in the geosciences. A crucial need is that the advanced methods and tools used by today's geoscientists be communicated to K-12 educators.