Resources for Learning and Teaching Critical Zone Science

Tuesday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


Don Haas, Paleontological Research Institution
Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) study the interactions of rock, soil, air, water, and life in the area between the bottom of the water table and the tops of the vegetation. These National Science Foundation-funded CZOs are natural watershed laboratories for investigating Earth surface processes mediated by fresh water. Research at CZOs seeks to understand these little-known coupled processes through monitoring of streams, climate/weather and groundwater. CZOs are instrumented for hydrogeochemical measurements and are sampled for soil, canopy and bedrock materials. CZOs involve teams of cross-disciplinary scientists whose research is motivated and implemented by both field and theoretical approaches, and include substantial education and outreach.

This session will share resources and approaches for learning and teaching Critical Zone (CZ) science. The interdisciplinary nature of CZ science makes it an excellent gateway to teaching that reflects science's three-dimensional nature. CZ content is relevant primarily for middle school through undergraduate instruction. The fact that the CZ covers the entirety of every continent, and addresses issues across geosciences, makes teaching CZ science relevant and useful to a wide range of curricula, and for teaching about the importance and nature of systems science.

Nine fully-funded CZOs exist across the US and are situated in a wide range of ecosystems and upon a wide range of geologic contexts allowing for comparisons across sites and to the local environments of instructors and students. Resources shared in the session will include materials for a general introduction to CZ science, Virtual Fieldwork Experiences (VFEs) of individual CZOs, information about social media where CZ science is regularly shared, information on Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and for Teachers (RET) programs, and about professional development opportunities for educators. The session will include exploration of CZO VFEs and associated teaching activities.