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Earth Science in Elementary Education: Role in the Program

Page Prepared for SERC by Sadredin C. Moosavi, Ph.D.

A discussion of the design and implementation of an earth science content course serving pre-service teachers at Grand Valley State University , created by Steve Mattox, Ph.D.

A description of this course and its goals is available.

What Role Does this Course Play in Teacher Preparation?

As part of the teacher preparation sequence, this course seeks to:
  1. Increase content knowledge about earth science.
  2. Increase confidence in presenting science in the classroom.
  3. Increase student knowledge of methods used to teach science and assess learning.
  4. Compile existing teaching resources and develop new inquiry-based classroom activities.
  5. Demonstrate fluency in Michigan science standards and familiarity with the MI Educational Assessment Program.

How does the Course Address Each Role?

  1. Examination of content through problems, labs, discussion and development of age appropriate lessons introducing students to the traditional geology visible from the local level to the global systemic scale.
  2. Student confidence in classroom presentations is developed through observations of practicing master teachers, development and use of lessons with appropriate aged K-8 students and peer review of lessons by classmates in course presentations.
  3. Various models and activities designed to teach geoscience content are addressed through the development and demonstration of age appropriate lessons targeting middle and elementary school populations.
  4. The inquiry-based lessons developed by students are shared throughout the program and assembled into a portfolio of teaching resources.
  5. Course and student lesson outcomes are tied directly to the MI science standards and education assessment program.

How do Students Integrate Learning & Teaching?

This course is one of a series of courses that build understanding of the Earth sciences while developing lessons for K-8 populations. Students learn in a collaborative contructivist educational model to develop their understanding of course content and methods for its delivery. Materials developed for this course become part of the portfolio students assemble as a requirement for graduation. This course is taken in parallel with other education courses.

How does the Course Transition Pre-service Teachers into the Classroom?

This course integrates learning and teaching through observation of a practicing classroom earth science teacher and working with K-8 students in a clinical format. Students develop applicable lessons for middle and elementary school populations.

How is the Course Content Aligned with the National Science Education Standards?

This course and its counterparts are closely tied to the Michigan Curriculum Framework based upon the National Science Education Standards. Specific frameworks are identified in the syllabus.

How does the Course Meet Certification Requirements?

When combined with the other courses in the GVSU program, this course permits students to gain the integrated science endorsement required of Michigan science teachers.

What Challenges have been Encountered in Teaching this Course? How have they been Resolved?

The Grand Valley State Earth science courses function as a unit to cover the breadth of geoscience content. Despite its magnitude, it does face challenges in achieving its objectives.
  1. Content Coverage
    The breadth and depth of Earth Science content that must to be covered to fulfill Michigan's integrated science model requires a great deal of academic time and effort. In addition, the time demands needed to model and utilize a hands-on, inquiry-based approach adds to the overall time demands on the program. These challenges have been met via requiring five courses in this sequence. Each course also contains a six-hour mix of lab and lecture which roughly breaks into two to three hours of lecture, two hours of hands-on activity and one to two hours of inquiry-based investigation. The net effect of this approach gives students nearly the equivalent of a double major in science and education.
  2. Timing of Field Trips
    Michigan winter weather places some limitations on the timing of field trips. Since courses can be taken by students in any order, all courses need to be available in all semesters. This requires some reworking of the order of course topics between the Fall and Spring semesters to accomodate the snowier parts of winter.
  3. Staffing
    The large number of courses needing to be offered by this program each semester places strain on departmental staffing resource,s given the goal of maintaining a maximum class size of 24. Although two of the ten faculty members in the department are dedicated to science education, staffing still limits the number of sections which can be offered.