Northeastern Section - 51st Annual Meeting - 2016

Paper No. 11-4
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


DUGGAN-HAAS, Don, The Paleontological Research Institution, 92 South Drive, Amherst, NY 14226, WHITE, Tim, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State University, 2217 Earth and Engineering Building, University Park, PA 16802, ROSS, Robert M., Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 and DERRY, Louis A., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853,

Environments emerge from the interplay of dynamic processes described across geoscience curricula, but curriculum units are, as a practical necessity, taught discretely, posing challenges to development of systems understandings. Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) are NSF-funded natural laboratories that investigate surface processes mediated by fresh water. CZO research seeks to understand these processes by monitoring streams, climate/weather, and groundwater. Teams of cross-disciplinary scientists are motivated by and implement field and theoretical approaches, and educational outreach that facilitates the teaching of traditional geoscience units and the interplay of Earth processes.

CZO research brings together geologists, hydrologists, ecologists, climatologists and more in collaborative study of the Critical Zone (CZ) and the services it provides. CZ science’s unprecedented interdisciplinary nature and its in-depth study of place facilitates addressing NGSS in many ways.

This is a status update on project outreach. An online “Introduction to the Critical Zone” course in Penn State’s M.Ed. in Earth Sciences program provides a broad overview of various Earth surface and environmental sciences underpinning CZ science, introduces available data and information sources, and works through a CZ science assessment of sites near students’ home institutions. Webinars presented to teachers in the Portsmouth, VA school district, have supported efforts to incorporate CZ science into the curriculum, and in summer 2015 a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program offered by the Susquehanna-Shale Hills and Christina River Basin CZOs culminated with a teacher workshop on CZ science and produced a Virtual Fieldwork Experience (VFE) of the Shale Hills CZO. The RET program serves as a pilot for RET programming at other CZOs. A VFE has been produced of the Southern Sierra CZO. Teaching resources have been developed at individual CZOs and a website hosting a database of these resources is being developed.

These freely available resources and approaches of CZO outreach provide support for teaching science that satisfies NGSS’s expectations related especially to interdisciplinarity, the role of engineering in science, and the importance of modeling in developing and sharing scientific understandings.