GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 138-13
Presentation Time: 4:45 PM


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

Science, like the world it strives to understand, is not neatly divided into disciplines, grades, or 45 minute periods. Schooling is not only poorly matched to what research tells us about how people learn, it operates in opposition to much of that research. While not explicitly, the 3D and interdisciplinary nature of the NGSS offers promise for subverting the structure of schools in effective ways. Metaphorically, Critical Zone (CZ) science is to traditional disciplinary science as the NGSS is to traditional science education.

The CZ extends from the tops of the vegetation to the bottom of the groundwater. Nearly all terrestrial life inhabits the CZ. The NSF funds nine CZ Observatories (CZOs) where interdisciplinary teams of scientists study the interplay of rock and life, mitigated by water and air.

This approach to science is “optimally distinct,” meaning that conventionally understood practices and ideas are brought together in unconventional ways. Such approaches are common to successful innovations, and they are rare in educational innovation. CZ science is clearly interdisciplinary and three-dimensional. It offers an opportunity for innovation by mimicry within the educational system as a vehicle for NGSS implementation.

Knowing that...

  • climate, energy, and CZ science each can only be deeply understood from an interdisciplinary perspective; and

  • the most effective professional development (PD) includes ample attention to unique disciplinary knowledge for teaching (PCK); and

  • effective PD is the exception,

we raise the question, “Can we modularize curriculum & PD such that the more teachers, disciplines, and grade levels that participate in an interdisciplinary approach, the more students deepen their understanding of the interdisciplinary issue (climate, energy, or CZ science)?”

While much of science education “works,” in that we produce successful scientists, the system of science education is not regarded as generally successful, and efforts at reform in recent decades have yielded few conspicuous positive outcomes. By attending research on innovation more broadly and using CZ science as a model for moving forward in educational change, we offer promise for successful NGSS implementation.