INCREASING AWARENESS OF GEOHERITAGE SITES & EARTH SCIENCE LITERACY THROUGH TEACHER-DEVELOPED EARTHCACHES
Geologically significant places exist within or near-by most communities but may not yet be designated as Geoheritage sites. These special places can be valuable resources used to engage K-12 students in geoscience topics if integrated into existing curriculum. However, many teachers charged with geoscience instruction lack awareness of these sites, pedagogical experience of using place-based examples or a firm background in Earth Science concepts. EarthCaches are special types of geocaches which teach lessons about geologically significant places in a fun and interactive way.
A mixed method study has been conducted to understand the effects of integrating EarthCaching into the Michigan Teaching Excellence program (MITEP) as part of the Earth System Institute for in-service teacher-participants. Educators visited EarthCaches & geoheritage sites throughout Michigan during the program and later developed a publishable EarthCache for use by the general public. EarthCaches developed by MiTEP teachers provide a high quality geoscience lesson that builds awareness of geoheritage sites and Earth Science literacy in the general public. Results suggest: 1) geoscience knowledge and skills improve, 2) place-based pedagogical skills are further developed and 3) an increase in awareness of regional geologically significant areas.