North-Central Section - 49th Annual Meeting (19-20 May 2015)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM


WAITE, Gregory P., Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological Univ, 1400 Townsend Dr, Houghton, MI 49931, ENGELMANN, Carol A., STEM Learning Instructor, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE 68182, STEIN, Carol A., Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 845 W. Taylor St, m/c 186, Chicago, IL 60607-7059 and STEIN, Seth, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208-3130,

A major challenge for geoscience educators in the Midwest is that plate tectonics, one of the grand unifying themes of the earth sciences, seems very remote. Teaching geoscience encompasses fascinating dynamic processes like volcanic eruptions, mountain building, and rifting, which are captivating for teaching. Yet it is difficult for educators to connect these concepts to students’ experiences because active tectonics occurs in places far from the Midwest. The North American Mid-Continent Rift System (MCRS), the dominant geologic feature of the mid-continent, offers an extraordinary opportunity for teachers and students in the Midwest to observe the effects of plate tectonics close to home. We sought to increase awareness of the MCRS for both formal and informal educators, as well as the general public through workshops and the development of a new IRIS Active Earth Monitor Display about the MCRS.

A week-long workshop was held at Michigan Tech in August 2014 for a group of formal and informal educators from the Midwest. The workshop was designed to provide training and build experience using geological and geophysical methods to investigate the MCRS. The educators engaged in activities that they could use in their respective educational facilities and began developing a content set for the IRIS Active Earth Monitor. The development of this Active Earth Monitor content set is unique in that teams consisting of both formal and informal educators were paired to create the content pages. The formal educators (classroom teachers from grades 8-16) shared ways for teaching how and why we know what we know about the MCR and how to relate that to state and national science standards. The informal educators (from national, state and regional parks) taught the classroom teachers about how to capture the viewer's attention and how to help people relate to the MCRS on a personal level.

  • Waite_et_al.GSA2015.MidContRiftPlacemod.pptx (38.1 MB)