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Exploring the Hydrosphere: Role in the Program

Page Prepared for SERC by Steven Mattox of Grand Valley State University.

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, students will:
  1. Increase and apply content knowledge about the hydrosphere to solve problems and describe Earth systems.
  2. Successfully demonstrate their knowledge on the state certification exam
  3. Conduct a research project that demonstrates an ability to think scientifically
  4. Utilize different methods to teach science and assess learning.
  5. Build a portfolio of teaching techniques and lesson plans for K-8 teaching of the hydrosphere.
  6. Demonstrate fluency in Michigan science standards and familiarity with the MI Educational Assessment Program.
  7. Understand the characteristics and distribution of water and the processes involved in the hydrologic cycle
  8. Understand groundwater, its movements, and its uses
  9. Understand the characteristics and processes of freshwater systems
  10. Understand the characteristics and processes of marine systems
  11. Understand the relationships between the hydrosphere and human activities

How does the Course Address Each Role?

  1. Examination of the course content through problems, labs, discussion and development of age-appropriate lessons introduce students to the hydrospheric sciences visible from the local level to the global systemic scale.
  2. This is a programmatic goal achieved from the combined activities of the entire GVSU Earth Science course sequence. Individual frameworks met by this course are listed in the syllabus.
  3. Students engage in a research project (on the gorges in Grand Rapids) directly related to hydrologic science in a hands-on, inquiry-based manner that is transferable to the many locales in which future teachers will find themselves.
  4. Various models and activities designed to teach hydrospheric science content are addressed through the development and demonstration of age-appropriate lessons targeting middle and elementary school populations.
  5. The lessons developed by students throughout the program are assembled into a portfolio demonstrating their proficiency as part of their degree requirements.
  6. Course and student lesson outcomes are tied directly to the MI science standards and education assessment program.
  7. The various aspects of the hydrologic cycle are explored through a systematic tracking of water as it moves from one reservoir to another over the course of the semester.

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 by combining instruction relating to hydrospheric science content with development of applicable lessons for middle and elementary school populations. Students do not implement these lessons with students in this course.

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.