Integrating Research and Education > Incentives > Bridges Report

Bridges: Connecting Research and Education in the Earth System Sciences

Recommendations from the pre-planning committee of the "Geoscience Education in the Next Millennium" meeting at the National Science Foundation (April 28, 2000) (Go to summary)


A pre-planning meeting was held at the National Science Foundation on April 26, 2000 to focus on the topic "Geoscience Education in the New Millennium". The purpose of this planning meeting was to explore the next steps in advancing the interests of geoscience education, and to determine whether or not a community-based workshop was necessary or desirable. The discussions at this workshop were informed by the recommendations of previous workshops sponsored by the GEO and EHR Directorates, including Scrutiny of Geoscience Education (AGU, 1994), Shaping the Future of Undergraduate SMET Education (NSF 96-139), Shaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth Science Education, Innovation and Change Using an Earth System Approach (AGU, 1997), Geoscience Education: A Recommended Strategy (NSF 97-171), and Portals to the Future, A Digital Library for Earth System Education (1999; A list of participants at this planning meeting is appended.


This planning committee recommends that a community-wide workshop be held in the summer of 2001 to address the theme of BRIDGES: Connecting Research and Education in the Earth System Sciences.

Earlier workshops on geoscience education have focused on content and curricular issues, and on the application of digital technologies in service to geoscience education. BRIDGES was identified as an important next step to promote cooperation and sharing between the "research" and "educational" interests of the geosciences. The purpose of this workshop is to explore the cultural relations, along many dimensions, that will promote synergistic collaborations to the benefit of the entire geoscience community. The workshop format was viewed as the best forum to articulate the diverse contributions, interests, and needs from all parties interested in geoscience education at all instructional levels and settings. An essential outcome of the workshop will be an action plan to develop mechanisms to allow continued work in critical areas beyond the workshop itself.


Numerous opportunities and incentives converge to commend the BRIDGES workshop at this time:

Workshop focus

Numerous permutations of research and education were explored as important components of the workshop, each with different significance and impact.

Research in Education

This focus area concerns ways to optimize opportunities for students to actually do science. In some settings, students will be able to contribute to new knowledge (e.g., Project GLOBE for K-12 students; true research experiences for undergraduate and graduate students). In other settings, simulation, replication, modeling and visualization allow students to engage research-like activities to (re) discover scientific principles.

Research and Education

This focus area concerns mechanisms to translate new scientific discoveries into a variety of instructional settings.

Research on Education

There is a tremendous need to understand how learning is actually achieved in the Earth sciences. We have much to learn from cognitive psychology and sister disciplines (e.g., physics) that have established a research base on student learning. In the Earth sciences, we can benefit from the experience of these related fields, but we must also focus on learning about an Earth system that is dynamic, heterogeneous, complex, and often chaotic. Areas identified for further attention include:

Education in Research

What happens in the classroom (or other educational settings) necessarily impacts the research enterprise. The knowledge base, skills, and attitudes imparted in educational activities, in many ways, dictates whether or not students may consider careers in the sciences, or more generally, develop an appreciation of science as they enter their civic lives.

Potential Participants

The planning committee recommends that participants at the BRIDGES workshop be broadly representative of the education and research communities in the geosciences. In addition, they felt that it was extremely important that a number of carefully chosen experts on human cognition, and educational researchers from other disciplines be included. Other external expertise that was suggested includes representatives of marketing/advertising agencies who understand how to reach broad audiences, and publishers, who may need to make fundamental changes in textbooks and related instructional materials. This approach was effectively used at the Portals to the Future workshop, where geoscientists, educators, information technology specialists, and librarians came together to form an action plan for the development of the Digital Library for Earth System Education.


The panel recognized that perhaps the most exciting aspect of the BRIDGES workshop is the opportunity to learn more about what advances have been made in related disciplines–in part, in the field of human cognition, and in part in sister science disciplines. Carefully chosen keynote speakers will serve to inform participants of new possibilities and approaches. This was viewed as an opportunity to establish ownership and buy-in among leaders in the geoscience community. The expectation that participants would learn something new and meaningful from experts outside of the geoscience community was viewed as sufficient incentive to attract wide interest in the BRIDGES workshop.


Numerous outcomes should derive from this workshop:

Next Steps

To initiate the planning of the Bridges workshop:

Cross Cutting Issues

Diversity - The committee spent a great deal of time discussing diversity, or demographic, issues. This is recognized as one of the primary challenges to geoscience education that is facing us in the new millenium. It was the sense of the panel that a single workshop dedicated to diversity issues would not be sufficient, and other initiatives in the GEO Directorate are already being considered to address this issue. However, to the extent possible, diversity issues should be addressed throughout the BRIDGES workshop. Opportunities arise to do so in focus areas such as mentoring programs, internships, and in research on learning styles of different student populations.

Outreach - Outreach is an important component of the overall geoscience education mission. In part, outreach can be directed towards the general public in informal educational settings such as museums, aquariums, and parks. Outreach can also be directed towards our sister disciplines in the life, physical, and social sciences and engineering disciplines. The panel recognized the need for the geoscience community to be proactive in its outreach activities to raise the public awareness about the relevance and importance of geoscience contributions to the public health, safety and welfare.

Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) - Significant advances have been made in the past year towards the development of DLESE with funding from the GEO and EHR Directorates. DLESE is currently working on mechanisms to a) collect, review and deliver "best practice" educational materials, b) develop tools and interfaces for the delivery of real-time and archived data sets for instructional purposes, and c) to serve as "the intellectual commons" for the geosciences by providing communication networks among all interested parties. The BRIDGES workshop should utilize these resources, and work in concert with DLESE efforts to effectively develop new materials and approaches that can be disseminated through the DLESE networks.

NSF-Wide Initiatives - The BRIDGES workshop provides an important venue to explore new ways to support NSF-wide initiatives such as Biocomplexity, Life in Extreme Environments, Environmental science initiatives, and multidisciplinary initiatives in GEO such as EarthScope.

Relations between GEO and EHR - The committee recognized the significant progress made over the past number of years in the cooperative approach to geoscience education supported by the GEO and EHR Directorates. These efforts are greatly appreciated and encouraged. In this, the committee felt that this was a model for both NSF as an institution, and for the geoscience community. This record of cooperation also provides opportunities that do not presently exist elsewhere in NSF and among other science disciplines, and the BRIDGES workshop will provide one more venue to further this tradition of cooperation and synergy.

Summary report

Prepared by: Dr. David W. Mogk
Montana State University

Panel Participants:
Dr. Gail Ashley
Rutgers University

Dr. Michael Bergman
Simon's Rock College

Dr. Michael Forrest
Rio Hondo College

Dr. Bruce Fouke
University of Illinois

Dr. Ed Geary
CSMATE, Colorado State University

Dr. Frank Ireton
American Geophysical Union

Dr. Susan Humphris
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Dr. David Simpson
IRIS Consortium

Dr. John Snow
University of Oklahoma

Summary Recommendations–Pre-Planning Committee "Geoscience Education in the Next Millennium" April 28, 2000

This planning committee recommends that a community-wide workshop be held in the summer of 2001 to address the theme of BRIDGES: Connecting Research and Education in the Earth System Sciences.


Numerous opportunities and incentives converge to commend the BRIDGES workshop at this time. This workshop responds to the broad interests of the geosciences community by seeking new ways to strengthen connections and relationships between our research and educational missions:

Workshop focus

Numerous permutations of research and education were explored as important components of the workshop, each with different significance and impact:


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