Should we be talking with our Earth & Environmental Science students about voting?


Posted: Sep 12 2016 by Kim Kastens

The New York Times ran a piece recently about how voting turnout differs among undergraduates by field of study. In the last presidential election (2012), education majors had the highest voting rate at 55%. STEM majors had low turnout, with engineers having the lowest voting rate at 35%. Of course I wondered about students majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences. I tracked down some further information about the study, and found that we aren't included as a category. We'll have to settle for data about physical science majors, who are in the bottom five of the 20 majors reported, with 40% voting turnout. More

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"What should be the temperature of the ocean?"


Posted: Aug 23 2016 by Kim Kastens

I've been thinking a lot recently about Practice 1 of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): Asking Questions (and Defining Problems). As far as I can tell, "Asking Questions" is the least researched of the NGSS practices, and also the least-discussed in terms of practioners' wisdom or pedagogical content knowledge. There seems to be a lot of literature on the questions that teachers ask students, but much less on question that students ask.

This line of thought has led me to scrutinize the questions that students ask as as they view visualizations of geoscience data. Here, by far, is my favorite student question to date:

"What should be the temperature of the ocean?"

I find this question interesting from several perspectives:

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Lessons Learned from Decades of GeoEd Reform


Posted: Apr 19 2016 by Kim Kastens

I was invited to speak on a panel at the recent workshop on Transforming Post-Secondary Education in Mathematics. No, I haven't suddenly become an expert on math education. The panel was invited to share lessons learned from reform of undergraduate education in other STEM disciplines, and I was there to represent Geosciences.

I was allotted 10 minutes–and one ppt slide– to convey the essence of what our community has learned in 20 years or more of plugging away at this challenge. With some help from friends, I put together a set of suggestions, which appears below in slightly edited form. I'd be interested to hear what others think have been our lessons learned. More

Put a Little ART in your EARTH Science


Posted: Mar 7 2016 by David W. Mogk, Dept. Earth Sciences, Montana State University

C.P. Snow famously wrote about "The Two Cultures"[1]—that great divide between the sciences and humanities. Snow argued that the inability of scientists/engineers and scholars of the arts/humanities to communicate was a major barrier to addressing the grand challenges that face humanity. Scientists/engineers may be derided on one hand because we do not have instant recall of the "canon" of great works of literature, have not read Foucault or Feyerabend, or are not up to date with post-modern literary theory. On the other hand, how many non-scientists understand the fundamentals of DNA and PCR used as evidence in their favorite CSI television show, understand evolution and natural selection as related to the antibiotics they use, or understand the tenets of plate tectonics and the potential impacts on personal and societal safety (Will Durant: Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.)? More

Data Visualization as Rorschach Test


Posted: Feb 21 2016 by Kim Kastens

In a recent post, I discussed the work of Graham Turner, who has tested model outcomes from the Limits to Growth effort against empirical data. Turner's comparison shows that the business-as-usual (aka "standard run") model from Limits to Growth seems to be tracking pretty well against the data on measures related to economy, environment, and population. Although model and data have been agreeing pretty well so far, the hard part of the forecast hasn't yet been tested. Between approximately 2010 and 2040, the model predicts that Industrial_output_per_capita, Services_per_capita, and Food_per_capita will stop rising and start falling, followed by similar reversals in Population and Pollution. Meanwhile, Death_rate has been falling and is forecast to turn around and start rising.

One of these inflection points seems to be beginning to show up in the data: Turner's graph shows that global Death_rate has flattened out and begun to rise ever so slightly. Why might this be? More

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