GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 39-14
Presentation Time: 5:00 PM


ABOLINS, Mark, Department of Geosciences, Middle Tennessee State University, Box 9, Murfreesboro, TN 37132,

During May and June of 2016, 8 of the 30 alumni of the 2013-2015 “Geoenvironmental Challenges” summer undergraduate science research experience participated in on-line educator professional development. “Geoenvironmental Challenges” was the National Science Foundation (NSF) Geosciences Directorate’s first Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site designed specifically for pre-service middle school and high school STEM teachers. During each of the summers of 2013, 2014, and 2015, the project recruited 10 participants, and these participants completed a nine-week experience of which approximately seven weeks consisted of mentored science research and approximately two weeks consisted of ancillary activities including field trips. During May and June of 2016, 8 self-selecting “Geoenvironmental Challenges” alumni participated in one of two paid professional development opportunities.

Five participated in a two-week on-line curriculum development project alongside a veteran in-service Earth science teacher. For the curriculum development project, Abolins created ten on-line assignments organized around Next Generation Science Standard HS-ESS2-5, “Investigations of the properties of water," with a focus on the geological features of karst and the social issue of environmental justice. The participants used Google Docs daily to share and learn from each other, and they twice used Facebook for discussions. Anonymous participant post-project reflections suggest that most thought that learning outcomes were attained, and most thought that the overall experience was of relatively high quality (mean of 4.5 on a 5-point scale) and had exceeded their expectations (mean of 4.3).

Three “Geoenvironmental Challenges” alumni are participating as researchers in an on-going geoscience education research project. For this project, Abolins is also creating on-line assignments, and participants are using Google Docs to share and learn from each other. This project is ongoing, so post-project reflections are not yet available.

Both projects are aligned with the original objectives of this particular REU Site, the current goal of the REU program to provide ongoing mentoring to REU Site participants, and research indicating that educators often benefit from on-going professional development.