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Matter & Energy in Earth Systems

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Course Type:
Introductory Earth Science Course for Pre-service K-8 Teachers

Course Size:
Lecture/Lab 28/28

Course Summary

Matter & Energy in Earth Systems is the earth science component of a series of courses designed to teach K-8 pre-service teachers fundamental content while modeling inquiry-based learning through an in depth understanding of the scientific method. Through this course and its companions, students develop a sense of how scientists think and learn by practicing these skills as content is learned. Tracking the movement of matter and energy through various physical, geological and biological systems provides a unifying theme across the courses with students focusing heavily on developing energy & matter diagrams. Learning to observe and emulate best practices on the pedagogical side of the sciences is also emphasized in this course for future teachers. All these experiences come together in the capstone Investigative Science course.

For Dr. DeBari's reflections on the course and its design, see Matter & Energy in Earth Systems: Role in the Program.

Course Context:

This course is the second in a series of three science courses focusing on the flow of Matter & Energy in Physical, Earth and Biological Systems designed for pre-service K-8 teachers. Students take the sequence early in their academic program, before an interdisciplinary capstone course Investigative Science, also described in this course collection. Most of the incoming students are unfamiliar with, and at times afraid of, the processes and content of science. All of the Matter & Energy courses and Investigating Science result from a systematic curricular revision focusing students on inquiry and systems based learning.

Course Goals:

Matter & Energy in Earth Systems meets several content and pedagogical goals within the pre-service teaching course sequence:
  1. Students learn and understand fundamental earth science concepts in depth.
  2. Students approach science in a metacognitive way allowing them to track their own thinking and learning.
  3. Students observe and take part in a course where inquiry-based learning is modeled.
  4. Students take part in the scientific process, learning to cite evidence in support of conclusions.

Course Content:

Content in the course is organized into 5 fundamental units. Initially students attempt to explain the bimodal topography of the earth leading to investigation of properties of earth materials such as density and isostasy. This investigation leads into study of rocks and minerals and the rock cycle itself. Study of plate tectonics builds upon this work before students begin to examine the fourth dimension provided by geologic time. Studies of stratigraphy including several field trips enhance this segment. The course ends with study of the atmosphere and water cycle.

Teaching Materials:

Assessment:

Assessment in the course is divided between tests and journals. Each of the five content cycles is evaluated with a pre and post test. These tests are based on multiple choice questions developed with the aid of Horizon Research to match fundamental ideas in the Geoscience Concept Inventory. Students in the general education, Geology 101, class take the same tests for comparative purposes. Assessment also occurs through journals in which students can reflect on their learning process of the content.

References and Notes:

This course will be offered for the first time in Fall 2005.