Geoscience in Two-year Colleges > Essays

Essays on Geoscience at Two-Year Colleges

Participants in several workshops have contributed essays touching on various challenges and opportunities of teaching at two-year colleges.


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The Role of Geoscience Courses in Maryland's Associate of Arts in Teaching Degree part of Essays
Richard Gottfried, Frederick Community College
What better way to encourage greater participation of two-year colleges in geoscience education than to be a part of the teacher training process. Universities and four-year colleges have historically shouldered the responsibility of training teachers. But the number of qualified instructors has not kept up with the demand, especially in the STEM subjects. In response to this situation, Maryland has identified the two-year colleges as partners in teacher education. The result is the Associate of Arts in Teaching degree. This degree is set up so that students can articulate into a four-year program seamlessly.

Earth Science Literacy: It's Happening All Around You. Use It. part of Essays
Paul Cutlip, St. Petersburg College
As with most education, one of the most important aspects of effective geoscience education is making the material relevant to the students' "everyday lives". Without exception the most popular unit I teach each semester is volcanoes (nothing sells quite like death and destruction). But without a doubt, when I am discussing things that the students feel will actually affect them they become much more meaningfully engaged. We are in a unique position in the geosciences, we are teaching topics that are becoming more and more a part of the public policy discussion in this country. From global warming to oil spills geoscientists have something useful to say about a lot of what's in the news, doing so engages our students like little else, and not doing so does them a disservice.

Comprehensive Earthquake Monitoring Assignment to Address Earth Science Literacy part of Essays
Pete Berquist, Thomas Nelson Community College
Most students enrolled in my geology courses may never take a science class ever again, yet I find it likely that the will discuss a scientific topic at some point in their life. Therefore, I feel very strongly that students gain experience communicating moderately technical information to a variety of audiences. One challenge with my courses is that it is not until the latter third of the semester that we focus on more charismatic aspects of geological carnage and processes more obviously related to everyday life beyond igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. In response to maintaining students' interest and understanding of fundamental geologic principles and their broader implications to Earth processes, I've created an earthquake monitoring project that lasts for several weeks and culminates with a final paper. By the time the assignment is delivered, students have learned about minerals, rock forming processes (including the three major rock types) and Plate Tectonics, and they are starting to delve into learning about earthquakes. This project requires students' interpretations to be built upon the information covered earlier in the semester, to compile information regularly from the United States Geological Survey, and to practice communicating technical information to a range of audiences.

Sustainability and Hanford Reach part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Essays
Tracy Lai, Seattle Community College-Central Campus
Tracy Lai, Humanities/Social Sciences, Seattle Central Community College The struggle over Hanford Reach, the last wild stretch of the Columbia River, is difficult to understand unless we take an interdisciplinary ...

Sustainability in an Oceanography Course part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Essays
Katryn Wiese, City College of San Francisco
Katryn Wiese, Earth Sciences, City College of San FranciscoCurrently the primary classes in which I teach about Sustainability are Oceanography, Environmental Geology, and Physical Geology. Oceanography is my ...

Geoscience is by its nature interdisciplinary part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Essays
David Kobilka, Central Lakes College-Brainerd
David Kobilka, Earth Science, Central Lakes College-Brainerd Geoscience classes, especially those with an environmental component, are by nature interdisciplinary. For example, introductory Oceanography involves ...

Creating your own Community part of Essays
Kaatje Kraft, Mesa Community College
A common issue for geoscience faculty at two-year colleges is that of isolation. I have found several strategies that have been helpful for me in addressing this issue. The added benefit has resulted in opportunities to advocate for geosciences at the community colleges and students enrolled in our classes.

Growing Your Program Out in the Field part of Essays
Suki Smaglik, Central Wyoming College
Its hard to believe that when I arrived at Central Wyoming College ten years ago that geology had not been taught here for almost twenty years, and then only occasionally. Here we sit in the place that many geology camps bring their students to learn their field skills. There were two courses on the books: Physical and Historical. The year prior, the University of Wyoming (our only public 4-year institution) removed the prerequisite for Historical and made them both entry-level courses. While we don't have to follow everything that UW does, it makes transfer easier for our students to transfer if we do follow much of it. As at most institutions, entry-level geoscience courses serve a mixed population of potential majors to general studies, and it is always challenging to make the information relevant to all. (But that is the topic of a different essay.)

Recognizing Opportunities: Expanding Earth Science Literacy by Understanding the Role of Community Colleges in U.S. Education part of Essays
Wendi J. W. Williams, NorthWest Arkansas Community College / University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Two-year colleges provide a skilled graduate-level educated faculty focused upon teaching. Natural or physical sciences faculty have graduate training in their subject areas. Many 2-year colleges require at least a Master's degree for any faculty science division hire or require a minimum of 18 graduate units in the discipline (depending upon the State and/or institution). A growing number of faculty have earned Doctoral degrees (upwards of 10%, with the greatest number achieved by adjunct faculty; AACC, 2009). Numerous faculty are "shared" by 2-year and 4-year institutions, working combinations of part time and full time at both types of institutions simultaneously (e.g. this author). Community college faculty professional development emphasizes pedagogy and androgogy techniques for diverse populations. These faculty play an important role in the training of students in introductory laboratory science courses by offering smaller class sizes (generally 30 or less students per faculty), and providing more personalized "active learning" instruction. Pre-service teachers, particularly primary-levels, can receive suitable strategies in instruction modeled during content classes (Fathe and Kasabian, 2009). It is interesting to note that participants of the American Geophysical Union workshop on Earth Systems Science (AGU, 1996) grasped that most students begin their college training at 2-year institutions, however many of the articulation agreements for transfer to 4-year programs granting baccalaureate degrees are controlled by 4-year institutions. This has the effect of restricting community college faculty in the use of their collective expertise and ingenuity in delivering contemporary Earth system science curriculum (AGU, 1996).

In-Class Group Exercises in Introductory Geology part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Fred Marton, Bergen Community College
One of the key challenges that I face in my introductory geology class is trying to show students who are not necessarily interested in science (and who sometimes do not have a good background in science and math) that the basic concepts we are trying to learn about are not overly complicated or specialized. To address this, I have used in-class group exercises and worksheets to introduce many topics. I want the students to use these exercises as a way of teaching themselves and therefore they are not asked to answer questions on topics that we have already spent time on (unless they have actually done the assigned reading). Instead, I present simplified scenarios or analogies that they can figure out by themselves and then I go on to explain and we explore how they are analogous to the topic of interest.

Geoscience Projects That Bring the Community into the Classroom part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Michael Phillips, Illinois Valley Community College
I began my professional career working full-time as an environmental geologist outside of academia. I began teaching evening classes at a community college because I wanted to show students that geology was not just as an interesting look into how the earth operates but how the study of the earth directly impacts their lives. To that end, I have used my consulting experiences to shape my assignments, my instruction, and my community outreach.

Examinations of Time part of Workshop 2012:Essays
Kevin Mullins, Coconino County Community College
Kevin Mullins, Science Department, Coconino Community College I teach several geology classes, a Natural Disasters class and a Planetary Science class as well at a small community college with a diverse student ...

Challenges and Opportunities in Broadening Participation in Geosciences part of Essays
Ann C.H. Hadley, Manchester Community College
Manchester Community College is located just to the east of Connecticut's capitol city, Hartford. Our college's service area includes both urban and rural communities. We serve students who are from many different cultural backgrounds and who speak over fifty different languages. To promote student participation in geosciences and environmental sciences, we use several difference tools at the college.

Collaboration with Researchers to Enhance Community College Experience part of Essays
Allison Beauregard, Northwest Florida State College
Being at a small community college, with only three geoscience instructors and very limited resources, I find the following to be among my biggest challenges:

Geoscience at Southwestern Illinois College part of Essays
Joy Branlund, Southwestern Illinois College
A main goal of mine is to show students that everyone can do science, that science can and should be understood by all citizens, and that there are benefits to thinking scientifically. In short, I stress science literacy in my geoscience courses. The purpose of this essay is to address the importance of community colleges in geoscience education. The link between community colleges and science literacy is this: stressing science literacy at community colleges will positively change the way science is viewed an integrated in U.S. politics and society. This bold statement reflects the fact that many adults will take their only post-secondary physical science at a community college. We should not underestimate the roles of community colleges in creating educated and engaged citizens.

Geoscience at Hillsborough Community College part of Essays
James (Jim) Wysong, Hillsborough Community College - Brandon Campus
Hillsborough Community College, like many large metropolitan community colleges in close proximity to major universities, has a high ratio of Associate in Arts (A.A.) to Associate in Science (A.S.) degree seekers. At the particular campus where I teach, that ratio approaches 9:1. Not surprisingly, the majority of students enrolled in the geosciences courses that we offer1 are seeking to fulfill general education requirements for a generic liberal arts A.A. or for a non-science university parallel A.A., rather than taking those courses for a terminal geosciences related degree or a university parallel degree in a geoscience major. Our college does have an Environmental Science Technology A.S. degree; however, most of the geoscience related courses required for that program are restricted to students in the program, and thus constitute only a very small part of our total enrollment.

Addressing 2YC Challenges at Portland Community College part of Essays
Frank Granshaw, Portland Community College
Challenge #1 – Networking among community college geoscience educators Challenge #2 – Supporting new and part-time faculty Challenge #3 – Addressing the needs of the "average" student now taking our courses Challenge #4 – Encouraging students interested in careers in the geosciences

COSEE - Pacific Partnerships part of Essays
Jan Hodder, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, University of Oregon, COSEE
I am the director of one of the National Science Foundation funded Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) www.cossee.org. One of the goals of my center, COSEE – Pacific Partnerships, is to increase the opportunities for community college faculty and students to learn about the ocean.

Promoting Earth science literacy in introductory courses part of Essays
Becca Walker, Mount San Antonio College
As a community college geoscience professor, the majority of my students are non-science majors, enroll in my courses to satisfy a general education transfer requirement, and do not intend on continuing in geoscience. Although I am thrilled when former students return for a second course, I teach with the assumption that for most of my students, this will be their last—and in many cases, only—exposure to Earth system science at an institution of higher education. As such, I believe that promoting Earth science literacy in all of my courses is essential and have thought deeply about how to infuse Earth science literacy into my curricula in ways that my students find intellectually engaging and useful. I have provided a few examples of strategies that I use—some are more time and labor-intensive than others—and forms of assessment.

The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts part of Essays
Amanda Palmer Julson, Blinn College
When I started teaching at Blinn College in the summer of 1996, I was the second of two part-time Geology instructors. Our classroom/lab was located in a converted strip mall, we had an institutional collection of about two dozen rocks stored in baby-wipe tubs, and we approached each new semester with anxiety, hoping that our classes would make.

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