Integrating nature journals into an online pre-service elementary education science course

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm SERC Building - Atrium | Poster #13
Poster Session Part of Friday Poster Session


Christy Visaggi, Georgia State University

Teacher preparation in the elementary education program at Georgia State University, a large public minority-serving institution in downtown Atlanta, includes a series of "integrated science" courses giving students broad coverage of concepts across disciplines. Earth and life sciences are covered in ISCI 2001; an Earth system approach is utilized in connecting material throughout the course. Topics from an Earth science lens include minerals, rocks, sediments, soils, weathering, erosion, water, weather, seasons, climate change, landscapes, natural hazards, plate tectonics, Earth history, fossils, and geologic time. Life science coverage encompasses characteristics of life, taxonomy, diversity, cells, organelles, food webs, energy pyramids, symbioses, microhabitats, urban forests, heredity, evolution, and environmental science. Previously, an interactive classroom approach provided an opportunity for students to engage in hands-on activities, and that has continued to be a priority as part of online instruction. The course is run primarily via an asynchronous model as of 2020, yet remains very centered on active learning, constructivist methods, and place-based pedagogy. Encouraging students to explore their surroundings and make connections in their life to class concepts has long been a focus, especially through project work. Students create their own natural history collection by gathering and identifying specimens, and they also produce an ArcGIS story map at the end of the semester linking and explaining class concepts to photos from their life. This year, nature journals were added to the course as a unifying bridge and support for these other projects by specifically prompting students to spend time outdoors, make/draw observations, and engage in a series of guiding reflections. Weekly entries and monthly write-ups were required with a rubric and examples provided to start. The response to this new project was overwhelmingly positive. Students did remarkable in demonstrating learning of course concepts and showed improved outlooks on science and appreciation for nature.