Place-based education for effective geoscience outreach: Caltech GO-Outdoors

Monday 1:45pm E Building 220
Oral Session Part of Monday Oral Session B


Shaelyn Silverman, California Institute of Technology
Juliet Ryan-Davis, California Institute of Technology
Caltech GO-Outdoors 2020-2023, California Institute of Technology
Hannah Dion-Kirschner, California Institute of Technology

Caltech is situated in Pasadena, where the public school district does not offer any dedicated geoscience courses. Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) serves a racially diverse student population, 71% of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged [1]. Caltech students formed Geological and Planetary Sciences Outreach-Outdoors (GO-Outdoors) to provide inclusive geoscience educational opportunities for PUSD students, a need that has been expressed by PUSD teachers and administrators.
GO-Outdoors provides lesson plans and field trips that apply place-based pedagogy, which improves access and belonging in geoscience courses for historically marginalized groups [2]. In tandem, the program allows Caltech researchers to develop pedagogy skills and form their own sense of place in Pasadena. GO-Outdoors has designed templates, rubrics, feedback forms, and other functions that make the program self-sustaining. We have developed and led over 20 field trips and lessons since 2021, reaching over 475 PUSD students. We will present a case study of a field trip offered in 2023 to 130 7th-grade students. Students rotated among four science stations and a hike at a local watershed park, learning a variety of geoscience topics through inquiry- and placed-based approaches. Survey results from participants indicate that students achieved learning gains at each science station, felt welcomed and included in the activities, and enjoyed the experience.
We intentionally structured our model of outreach to be centered around community needs. In addition, we have structured our program to maintain longevity. Building partnerships and frameworks for the program took effort and time over several months prior to beginning outreach activities. The program itself serves as an example and template for other outreach efforts to follow in order to develop sustainable, equity-minded place-based community outreach.

[1] PUSD Innovative Technology Services (2023).
[2] Semken et al. (2017) Journal of Geoscience Education, 65, 542–562.