Place, Cultural Context, and Geoscience Teaching

Thursday, Friday 8:30am-11:30am Student Union: Fiesta A and B


Steven Semken, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
Roberto Ibarra, University of New Mexico-Main Campus

We teach about the Earth in and by means of places, which are localities given meaning by human experience, and thus are cultural features embedded in the physical landscape. On the first day, participants in this workshop will explore and practice methods of leveraging the multicultural and natural attributes of places—and our own senses of place—to develop, deliver, and evaluate context-rich, place-based, culturally informed, inclusive curriculum and pedagogy. We will draw ideas from the rich cultural landscapes at hand in the Southwest as well as from the places and multicultural experiences that are important to the participants in the workshop. On the second day, we will unpack experiences from day one to understand how social-science theory can explain the effectiveness of this approach and assist geoscience educators with engaging a broad variety of students.

Workshop participants are also encouraged to attend the Thursday afternoon plenary address by Dr. Greg Cajete, for its direct relevance to our workshop themes.

The post-Rendezvous field trip to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is offered in conjunction with this workshop. Participation in the field trip is optional, and participants can choose to participate in only the field trip, only the workshop, or both the workshop and field trip. If you are interested in participating in the field trip, you can sign up when you register for the Rendezvous (cost is $8 and includes transportation and admission to the museum). Space for the field trip is limited to the first 15 registrants.


Target Audience

This two-day morning workshop is open to all Rendezvous participants who teach—or are preparing to teach—geoscience; and who are interested in doing so in place-based and culturally inclusive ways.


During the workshop and associated Rendezvous opportunities, each participant will:

  • Review the essential characteristics of place, sense of place, and place-based/culturally informed teaching.
  • Exemplify the process of leveraging place and culture in geoscience teaching and assessment.
  • Identify opportunities to introduce or increase use of place-based and culturally informed modalities in our own teaching.
  • Discuss the relevance of place-based and culturally informed geoscience teaching to fostering natural and cultural resilience and sustainability in our home communities.
  • Review the essential components of a context diversity model for adoption in teaching and research using place-based learning.
  • Be able to evaluate aspects of our teaching that may be more conducive for different student populations, using a context diversity model.
  • Be able to build curricula that are conducive to multicontextual learning.


The workshop format will interweave brief presentations by the conveners and individual and group activities in which participants will be able to relate the concepts of place and cultural context to their own geoscience teaching. We strongly encourage participants to bring personal laptops or tablets.

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