Geoscience in Two-year Colleges > Essays > How CCSF broadens geoscience participation

How CCSF broadens geoscience participation

Katryn Wiese, City College of San Francisco
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What have you found to be most successful in broadening participation in the geosciences at your institution and what made it successful?

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.

Most community colleges serve a large, diverse group of students – of all races, ages, and economic backgrounds. We are on the front lines with students who have lots of life experience and want to understand their planet better or who are lost and looking for something that interests them and that can guide them towards a successful, rewarding career and life path. As such, we have the opportunity to turn many students on to the Earth Sciences, and if not produce future majors, at least produce future voters, educators, and community contributors who are well versed in the scientific method and basic understandings about how their planet functions.

By making my department as open a resource as possible, by cooperating in outreach opportunities throughout the community, by helping all my current students see geoscience education as important and exciting, I am broadening participation in the most effective way possible.

So what are some of the specific ways that my particular department makes geoscience education exciting and open to all? First and foremost, we have great instructors teaching our courses – who get the highest evaluation marks and demonstrate their own passion and enthusiasm for what they teach. (A natural enthusiasm for one's subject matter – enthusiasm that bubbles over and infects a classroom – is one of the best ways to improve success and participation in a class!) We are committed to helping our students succeed in our courses and get hands-on experience with a wide range of skills. And we consider that part of our job at the community college – not just teaching geosciences, but providing as much guidance as possible to our students on how to be successful in our and future classes. More details:

Our transferable, general science-credit classes (Physical Geology, Physical Geography, and Oceanography) are always waiting room only. We serve many hundreds of students a semester. Once they enter our classes, they enter our sphere of influence. We give them opportunities to engage in geoscience education in a multitude of ways. We show them our science from many sides. In the end, wepull them in through satisfying transfer requirements. We keep them by making our classes engaging, exciting, and rigorous (so they leave with a sense of accomplishment), and by helping them to succeed. And we help create a community that they can consider themselves a part of as they continue onward in their educational journeys.

Much of what I've described is applicable to all academic settings. What's unique about the community college setting is the sheer number of hours we put in with our students, the potential diversity of our student body (depends on institution), and the focus we have on education that allows us to reach a larger number of students. We are a good testing ground for new assessment techniques, interactive activities, and other innovative strategies for engaging students. And what will help us most is going back to the most important tool in our arsenal – helping to create and develop enthusiastic, expert, talented teachers.

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