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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Strategies for a Strong Geoscience Program at Red Rocks Community College part of Essays
Eleanor J. Camann, Red Rocks Community College
When considering the strategies our program has used to meet some of the challenges associated with teaching at a two-year college, our effective use of non-traditional courses and transfer agreements immediately came to mind. I have only been teaching at the community college level for a couple of years, so I was not the first to initiate these tactics here at Red Rocks Community College, but I have found them to be very effective and think they're practices worth continuing and sharing with others who work in a similar setting.

How CCSF broadens geoscience participation part of Essays
Katryn Wiese, City College of San Francisco
Community colleges are the location of choice for community education (post graduate), job certificates, and future graduates looking for the most affordable educational path. As such, we have the unique opportunity to become an integral part of a community and serve it at all levels. We are educators in a wide range of capacities and our doors are open to all. We work with K-12 teachers and their classrooms; local science workshops; local news organizations; local parks; municipal services; politicians; and surrounding 4-year institutions to which our students transfer.

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.

Physical Geology Laboratory part of Essays
Jacquelyn Hams, Los Angeles Valley College
The most challenging aspect of teaching at my institution is that the students span the entire range of preparedness. Some can perform at the level of geoscience majors, and others do not have basic English language skills, and cannot perform simple mathematical calculations. This makes it particularly challenging to teach the introductory laboratory courses which require students to read carefully, follow instructions, and perform basic functions such as graph reading and simple mathematical calculations.

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 lastand in many cases, onlyexposure 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 usesome are more time and labor-intensive than othersand forms of assessment.

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.)

Fostering Communication Among 2-year College Geoscience Faculty: Trials and Tribulations part of Essays
John Bartley, Muskegon Community College
Ten years ago, I was a participant in the first planning workshop for broadening participation of 2-year colleges in geoscience education. Since then, some changes have taken place to improve things for 2-year college geosciences, but many of the concerns and problems shared among the participants at that first conference are still with uslimited resources, professional isolation, the absence of a national organization devoted to 2YC geoscience education issues, etc.

Geoscience at Highline Community College part of Essays
Eric Baer, Highline Community College
The most successful action was offering many introductory classes. This allowed students to take multiple introductory level classes and raised enrollments throughout. Furthermore, by having students take multiple classes we usually have a few students in each class that have had a previous class and so are more advanced. These students raise the educational achievement of all by becoming informal leaders.

The Two Year College and Beyond part of Essays
Pamela Gore, Georgia Perimeter College
Georgia Perimeter College enrolls more freshmen by far than any single 4-year institution in the State. In Fall 2009, nearly 15,000 freshmen were enrolled at GPC, compared with only about 5000 at the University of Georgia and similar numbers (4000-5000) at several other colleges and universities in the State. While there are 33 Geology majors, fewer than 5 students graduate each year with a Geology degree. The other students transfer directly into 4-year institutions before graduation through our Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) Agreements, which guarantee acceptance at one of approximately 40 4-year institutions, when maintaining a particular GPA and amassing a certain number of credits. At one time, we were told by a local University that GPC transfer students performed better and graduated at higher rates than students who started at that university.

Repackaging the Geoscience Curriculum part of Essays
David Kobilka, Central Lakes College
I work at a small rural community college where I am the only full time geoscience faculty. When I arrived here, hired on as an adjunct, enrollment was down college wide and registration for Earth Science classes was abysmally low. Administration had a tenuous commitment to even having an Earth Science department in semesters prior to my arrival there had been no Earth Science courses offered at all. My first semester department budget did not even cover photocopies. Thanks to the generosity of colleagues I patched together charity from other departments for things like test forms and chalk.

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.

Learning from Outside part of Essays
William Van Lopik, College of Menominee Nation
Teaching geoscience in a tribal college has its own challenges and mazes that must be circumvented. These difficulties often relate to the meshing of two different unique forms of teaching and learning. The predominant native student body has a different "way of knowing" than the non-native professor who has been steeped in the objective, predictable knowledge system of western science. These differences are best characterized by the difference between indigenous knowledge and the scientific method. I am not one to say that one is better than the other, only that they are two distinct perspectives. An integration of the two is required in order for students to appreciate and understand the geosciences. The symbiosis between these two ways of thinking is called "integrative science." The challenge for the instructor is to design and teach their class in such a matter that is receptive and interesting based upon the students' way of learning.

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).

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.

Developing Earth Science Literacy in a 2 year college part of Essays
David Voorhees, Waubonsee Community College
Developing and improving Earth Science and science literacy is one of the key driving motivations of my in- and out-of-class activities. Recent surveys (Pew Center, 2009, National Science Board, 2010) suggest an unreasonably poor understanding of basic geosciences. For example, in the these surveys, 28% of the participants responded that the sun goes around the earth‟, 31% said that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, and about half (49%) said the earth is getting warmer "mostly because of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels". Low scientific literacy is just part of the overall poor background that my typical earth science students have when they come into my classroom.

Using conceptually-based interactive teaching methods at two- year colleges part of Essays
Jessica Smay, San Jose City College
One of the main strategies I use to meet several of the challenging aspects of teaching at a two-year college is to use conceptually-based interactive teaching methods. This strategy helps address the issues of 1) lack of resources, 2) teaching a very diverse student body with non-majors, under-prepared students, and students with diverse learning strategies, and 3) keeping the course of introductory Geology fresh and exciting for me and the students.

Build It and They Will Come - Using a Monitoring Well to Advance a 2YC Geoscience Program part of Essays
Robert Blodgett, Austin Community College
A project to construct a groundwater monitoring well on an Austin Community College (ACC) campus provides a number of lessons on using limited resources to improve geoscience education at a two-year college. The project started with the help of Francye Hutchins, an enthusiastic 40-something geology student who though ACC should celebrate the first Earth Science Week. Still ongoing, the well project has received donations of equipment and services from seven businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations; dozens of hours of volunteer consultation from local hydrogeologists; media coverage in event attended by a state politician, students, and college officials; and after several years of success, a 200 square-foot wellhouse and teaching facility built by the college.

Quality, fieldwork, & blogging: my recipe for success part of Essays
Callan Bentley, Northern Virginia Community College
There are a couple of items I'd like to touch on in this essay. Given the breadth of possible questions, I think it would be fair of me to mix and match a bit. So I intend to cover three things here, from general to specific: (1) quality, (2) field work, and (3) blogging.

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