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Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants

John Madsen

Department of Geology
University of Delaware
Newark, Delaware

Summary of Earth Science Education Activities

Within the Department of Geology at the University of Delaware, we offer an earth science content course (GEOL 113—4 credits (lecture with lab) that is required of all elementary education majors. This course, in a rather traditional sense, includes components of physical geology, oceanography, and meteorology. The Department also offers a B.A. degree in Earth Science Education for Secondary Science education majors. This degree program includes 24 credits in education courses (including student teaching), 32 credits in geology and geography courses (e.g., physical geology and geography, mineralogy, surficial processes, field geology, meteorology, conservation of natural resources, applied climatology), and 25 credits of additional science courses (e.g., chemistry, physics, astronomy, evolution, calculus, oceanography).

With funding from the National Science Foundation, we are currently involved in a novel approach to science education for our elementary education majors. The "Science Semester" is a course sequence in which 60 elementary education majors are currently enrolled. This 15-credit semester involves the students taking their earth, life, and physical science content courses and their science teaching methods course in a block sequence (i.e., these are the only courses that the students are taking during this semester). We are using problem-based learning and other inquiry-based approaches to create an integrated science and education methods curriculum. Our goal is to foster integrated understandings of science and pedagogy that future elementary teachers need to effectively use inquiry-based approaches in their classrooms. Traditional subject matter boundaries have been crossed to stress shared themes that teachers must understand to teach standards-based elementary science. The students are working collaboratively on multidisciplinary problem-based learning (PBL) activities that place science concepts in authentic contexts and build learning skills. "Lecture" meetings are large group active learning sessions that help students understand difficult concepts, make connections between class activities, and launch and wrap-up PBL problems. Investigatory labs include activities from elementary science kits as launching points for in-depth investigations that demonstrate the continuity of science concepts and pedagogies across age levels. In the methods course, students are critically exploring the theory and practice of elementary science teaching drawing on their shared experiences of inquiry learning in the science content courses.