GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 253-5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM


MCNEAL, Peggy M., Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences, Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) include fifteen Performance Expectations for Middle School Earth and Space Science. Yet there exists a lack of geoscience training among middle school science educators, most who majored in biology if they hold a science degree. My experience with this population of educators and pre-service educators demonstrates, however, that they are eager and clearly motivated to learn the content and pedagogy necessary to provide dynamic geoscience instruction. In this presentation I share the results of focus group research with middle school geoscience educators, the outcomes of working with middle school educators to develop and test NGSS-aligned geoscience lessons, experiences preparing pre-service educators to deliver robust, NGSS-aligned, geoscience instruction, and my own personal experience teaching middle school for many years.

Strong pedagogy and rigorous science coursework are necessary to provide middle school educators with the knowledge and expertise needed to provide exemplary geoscience content instruction. Successful strategies to support geoscience education with middle school educators provide them with multiple opportunities to learn and experience authentic geoscience. For example, field studies that involve recurrent observations of Earth and space phenomena connect current and future educators with geoscience processes in an experiential way that produces confidence with material. The use of models to investigate scale, Earth systems, and the flow of matter and energy bring challenging geoscience concepts within the sphere of understanding. Analyzing data from large data repositories provides opportunities for constructing explanations and arguing from evidence. Opportunities to conduct research increase educator contributions to the geoscientific endeavor and promote a geoscientist identity.

Using illustrative examples of these strategies, along with the voices of current and future middle school geoscience educators, I will highlight efforts to produce well prepared, middle school geoscience educators who are passionate about teaching geoscience, and recognize the contributions that middle school educators make to the overall geoscience community.