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"What DOES poison oak look like?"


Posted: Jul 16 2012 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Field-Based Learning, Perception/Observation

The front cover of the current issue of The Economist documents the power of modern science, celebrating the finding of the Higgs boson as "a giant leap for science." But the back cover of the same issue documents the abject failure of natural history education in America. More

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You Map It; You Own It


Posted: Jul 15 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Field-Based Learning
Oblique view of Lamont SeamountsClick here for video.
In honor of World Oceans Day, Google Earth has updated their coverage of seafloor bathymetry, using data from the Global Multi-Resolution Topographic (GMRT) Synthesis. The GMRT folks work upstairs from me and I love beautiful maps, so I went to check out the site. The perky voice of Google's narrator on the highlights video lures the viewer in: "Let's begin by visiting the Lamont seamounts." The screen view plunges dramatically down through the sea surface, and brings us to a line of three seamounts off the coast of Mexico.

To my eye, these weren't just any old three seamounts. I know these seamounts well. Actually, I discovered them. More

Learning to Learn from Data


Posted: Feb 15 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Temporal Thinking, Quantitative Thinking, Field-Based Learning, Spatial Thinking, Metacognition, Interpretation/Inference
Scientists learn from data. Learning to learn from data is obviously an essential aspect of the education of a future scientist.

These days, however, many other kinds of people also learn from data--including business people, investors, education leaders, and people who care about pollution, disease, or the quality of their local schools. My daily newspaper is rich in data-based graphs and maps--and so is the newsletter from my local library. These days, learning to learn from data is a necessary part of everyone's education.

However, learning to learn from data is not a typical part of everyone's education. This post explores what might be required to construct a thorough learning progression for learning from Earth Science data, beginning where a good elementary school leaves off and carrying on through to what an upper level college course or adult job might demand. More

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Collapsing mountains and embodied cognition


Posted: Sep 8 2010 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Perception/Observation, Field-Based Learning, Energy

Earlier this year, I wrote in this very space:

...many Earth processes of global significance... have [the] effect of redistributing energy away from localities of high energy concentration towards localities of lower energy concentration. The net effect is a more dispersed spatial distribution of energy....Weathering and erosion have the net effect of breaking up over-concentrations of gravitational potential energy (aka mountains) and dispersing that energy in the form of kinetic energy of sediment particles down the mountainside and across the lowlands to the sea.

I believed what I wrote, one hundred percent--in an intellectual sense, that is.

Then I went to Alaska, to the Kenai Penninsula and the Aleutians--and now I really believe it. More

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J. Harlen Bretz, Spatial Thinker


Posted: Aug 25 2010 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Spatial Thinking, Field-Based Learning, Perception/Observation, History of Geosciences
When my daughter Holly was little, she wanted me to tell her stories. I found it difficult to make up stories from scratch. Eventually, inspired by a book called The Tale of Chip the Teacup, we found a work-around. I would tell familiar stories from the point of view of an unexpected character: Beauty and the Beast from the point of view of the Beast; Snow White from the point of view of Grumpy, and so on. I found this sufficiently doable, and Holly found the stories sufficiently original.

At the recent Spatial Cognition 2010 conference, I found myself in an similar position, telling the familiar story of the geological history of the Pacific Northwest from the point of view of spatial cognition. More

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