Earth Science from a New Perspective
Earth Science from a New Perspective is the geoscience course in the 33 credit on-line graduate program Science in Education designed for K-8 science educators and curriculum coordinators. The program is built upon a combination of inquiry based science content and pedagogical instruction designed to extend understanding of science concepts, experience alternative teaching and assessment techniques for direct transfer into their own classrooms.
The course is facilitated by two faculty members, a geoscientist and an earth science educator. The former focuses on developing content understanding while the latter engages students in bringing scientific inquiry into the classroom.
All students and facilitators function through a web-based, asynchronous on-line format in which all parties perform experiments, engage in threaded discussions and complete assignments over discrete windows of time, but with the flexibility necessary for individuals to work around professional schedules. Hands-on experiments utilizing actual data occur using simple equipment in the student's home, combined with streaming web-video and digital data presented in the on-line format. Students work with their peers and facilitators in an inquiry-based process of discovery, revision and reporting that models the collaborative method practiced by scientists. Significant effort is directed at helping the in-service teachers transition their newly found content knowledge and pedagogical skills into the classroom through analysis of classroom events in case studies, student work and videos.
Earth Science is a 3 credit course focusing on geoscience concepts through a detailed analysis of the Nile River system. Geological and hydrological principles of the world's longest river system crossing through multiple geologic and climatic environments provides a prime opportunity for students to view the earth from a systemic point of view. Connections to atmospheric and oceanic processes are investigated in the Nile system. Human dependence on and alteration of the river system is also a primary emphasis. Since students cannot visit the Nile as part of the course they rely on remote sensing data and images along with data collection by other scientists for their analyses. Students are asked to transfer these skills into analysis of a new river system of their own choosing as a course project. As with all content courses in this program, Earth Science from a New Perspective is paired with a 3 credit pedagogy course. Curriculum and Reform: Teaching for Understanding focuses on bringing inquiry-based science instruction into the K-8 school curriculum in a sustained and successful manner.
For Dr. Doubler's reflections on the course and its design, see Earth Science from a New Perspective: Role in the Program.
- Inquiry and research skills
- Making observations
- Generating questions
- Designing a scientific study
- Examining & interpreting data
- Physical & computer modeling
- Generating explanations
- Presenting research findings
- Science Concepts
- Properties of earth materials
- Stream flow dynamics
- Structure of the earth system
- Plate tectonics
- Global climate
- Data collected and/or examined
- Qualitative observational data
- Qualitative experimental data
- Quantitative observational data
- Published data from other researchers
- Satellite images, photographs, maps, and hydrographs
- Introduction: The Nile From a New Perspective
- The Watershed: Where Does the Water Flow and Why?
- Understanding and Teaching for Understanding
- Understanding Goals and Generative Topics
- Global Precipitation: Where Does the Water Come From and Why?
- The Floodplain: How Does the Aswan Dam Change the Nile System?
- The Delta: How Does It Change?
- Ongoing Assessment: How Do We Know What Students Understand?
- River Investigation
- Plate Tectonics
- River Symposium
- Earth Science Forums 40%
Contribute to the Forums each week by reporting investigation results and other assignments and responding to colleagues. Post 4-6 messages each week and read all messages posted by your study group.
Criteria for Success: A consistent record of timely posts each week resulting in a body of messages that are concise, supportive of group inquiry, and further your group's conversation.
Purpose: Be "present" in class and contribute to the community of learning; to build scientific explanations and understandings; and to develop strategies for listening to children's ideas.
- Earth Science Investigation Sequence 40%
Students carry out a series of investigations and Thought Experiments about the Nile River leading to a greater understanding of Earth as a system.
Criteria for Success: Evidence that you develop understanding of Earth as a dynamic system by:
- Extracting information from visual and numeric data
- Making a detailed analysis of data
- Looking for and identify evidence of patterns and interactions
- Interpreting data from multiple perspectives
- Considering multiple explanations
- Being willing to reveal your predictions
- Supporting explanations with evidence
- Reassessing data to verify explanations
- Asking new questions of the phenomena and investigate some of these
- Rethinking ideas based on your group's evidence and discussions
Purpose: Develop understanding of Earth as a dynamic system through scientific inquiry.
- River Investigation 20%
Plan and carry out an investigation of a river system.
Criteria for Success:
- Evidence that conceptual understandings from the Nile study are transferred to study of a second river
- Evidence that the river is viewed as a dynamic and changing system
- Evidence that rivers are thought of as subsystems of the larger Earth system
- Evidence that the investigation is inquiry-based
- Evidence that investigation findings are based on data
- Evidence that models, visualizations, or recorded data were used as information sources
- Evidence that you are providing useful feedback to your colleagues
Purpose: Demonstrate understanding of key Earth Science concepts and the ability to transfer these understandings to a new context.
References and Notes:
This course is taught exclusively in an on-line format. All students in the program, regardless of job assignment, are pursuing a graduate degree beyond a pre-existing undergraduate program.
The Science in Education program was designed by TERC and Lesley University with support from the Department of Education and is offered to students through Lesley and Walden Universities.