GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 40-7
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM


BLACK, Alice (Jill), Dept. of Geography, Geology & Planning, Missouri State University, 901 S. National, Springfield, MO 65897,

The curriculum of an inquiry-based Earth Science for Teachers course is described. All four areas of Earth Science are approached with an emphasis on both spatial abilities and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Teachers of such courses are challenged by the fact that research shows that elementary teachers have long been recognized as not scoring as high as science majors on spatial ability tests, and that the Earth sciences are considered by some researchers as the most spatial of the sciences. This four credit-hour, six-contact hour/week required course is limited to future elementary and middle-school teachers. 

Scale (in time, distance, and space), proportion, and the spatial abilities of mental rotation, spatial perception and spatial visualization were considered when planning content and activities for the course, as well as the NGSS. Scale is one of the NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts, or ideas which are prominent in all or many science disciplines. Cross Cutting Concepts is one of the “three dimensions” of the NGSS, along with Disciplinary Core Ideas (content) and Science and Engineering Practices. Science Practices are continually used in the course, and engineering, or solving human problems, and the EIE (Engineering is Elementary) curriculum are often referenced.

Three-dimensional materials are used in activities, demonstrations, and whole-body activities throughout the course. Specific activities with spatial components include representations of why the spherical Earth appears round, gravity and spacecraft, moon phases, the kinetic molecular theory in weather and other state-of-matter concepts, sun angle and insolation, seasons, 3-D weather fronts and mid-latitude cyclones, karst topography, karst and non-karst watersheds, constructing scale models, and more. Most of the activities also stress using as many sensory pathways as possible, rather than just sight; kinesthetic (which is spatial) and tactile senses are especially prominant. Preliminary testing has shown an increase in mental rotation scores, as well as Earth science content, after completing the course.