Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


HANTZ, Catherine, Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794,

The Earth sciences have been part of the curriculum in American schools for more than 100 years. Yet, despite its long-established presence, the Earth sciences are marginalized within the elementary, middle and high school science framework. This stands in contradiction with the National Science Education Standards whose benchmarks emphasize equal weighting of the Earth sciences spanning grades two through twelve. The sequencing of Earth science at the secondary level remains tenuous, and the discrepancy between national benchmarks and state level educational policies underscores the nature of the problem facing Earth science educators.

The high school science course sequence recommended by the Committee of Ten in 1894 remains essentially intact today. The longstanding duration of this sequencing is ingrained in most state and national standards and guidelines. Logically presented arguments to reorder secondary sciences are met with resistance, and so chemistry continues to precede physics and Earth science, comprised largely of geological sciences (once a senior level course), remains relegated to a remedial science at the 9th grade level, despite the fact that its integrated nature suggests that it may be best suited as an application course following a high school sequence of biology, chemistry and physics.

New York State, like so many others, places Earth science in the 8th and 9th grades before students learn about core science concepts and processes that inherently coalesce in the Earth sciences. This seems unusual considering that New York was one of the first states to incorporate Earth science into their state curriculum, and its enrollment currently ranks first among all states.

This exemplefies the stereotypical view of Earth sciences not being as demanding as other physical sciences, and bolsters the commonly held misconception that the requisite knowledge and rigor of the Earth sciences falls far short of chemistry and physics; sciences believed to require greater mathematics competency.

To understand the cultural, societal and political influences that shaped the Earth science syllabus into its present form, and to establish a framework upon which recommendations for future curricular development can be made, an analysis of the origin and evolution of secondary Earth science is warranted.