Investigating factors that affect teachers' participation in a Geo-STEM Learning Ecosystem

Thursday 3:45pm Tate 105
Oral Session Part of Thursday B: Teaching Online


Cheryl Manning, Northern Illinois University
Nicole LaDue, Northern Illinois University

Geo-STEM learning ecosystems (GLE) are communities of transformation engaging educators and learners in the geosciences to address local geoscience issues by bringing together current research and place-based education. While STEM learning ecosystems have been shown to nurture improved STEM identities in participants, we investigate the potential of GLEs to cultivate a geoscience identity amongst teachers, potentially impacting what is taught in a K-12 classroom.

During the Spring of 2021, we surveyed over 200 self-identifying Earth science teachers in Illinois. We asked about teachers' sense of connection to the scientific community, how they connect learning to where their students live, and their understanding of Critical Zone science topics, including sustainability. From this surveyed population, 20 teachers participated in a two-day workshop focused on Critical Interface Network (CINet) science. Teachers worked to intentionally broaden their networks, develop place-based questions that could drive student learning, and develop NGSS-ESS storylines using CINet data about the near land surface, the active root zone, and river corridors. Over the course of the last year, these teachers have participated in monthly webinars to continue to learn about geoscience-related sustainability issues and work together to finalize their storylines.

Here we provide an overview of pre-existing research and early results of our study through the lens of our growing GLE. We describe and compare the surveyed and workshop participant populations and their prior knowledge about critical zone science, attitudes about sustainability, existing networks, and how they use local phenomena in their teaching. We identify patterns that may help us understand how these factors contribute to teachers' practices and engagement in the geosciences.

Presentation Media

Investigating Factors that affect Teachers' Participation in a Geo-STEM Learning Ecosystem (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.5MB Jul14 22)