San Bernardino Alliance

Sally McGill
California State University-San Bernardino

Gabriela Noriega and Mark Benthien
Southern California Earthquake Center

Pathway Goals

The San Bernardino Alliance developed collaborative efforts to improve, contextualize, and connect introductory geoscience teaching at high schools, community colleges, and universities and to strengthen ties between the schools and local geoscience professional societies within Inland Southern California, focusing primarily on the societal issue of earthquake hazards.

Approaches to accomplish goals

  1. Develop connections between and improve introductory geoscience teaching across k-12, 2YR and 4YR institutions.
  2. Engage local community and students by leveraging earthquake hazards resources and expertise available from the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), InTeGrate, the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), and UNAVCO, and the American Geophysical Union's Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX).
  3. Make connections to the geoscience workforce through local geoscience professional societies such as the Inland Empire chapter of the Association for Environmental and Engineering Geology and the Inland Geological Society.

San Bernardino Pathway


  • Sally McGill, CSUSB
  • Gabriela Noriega, SCEC
  • Mark Benthien, SCEC
  • John Taber, IRIS
  • Raj Pandya, AGU Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX)
  • Bernadette Vargas, Etiwanda High School
  • Daniel Keck, Etiwanda High School
  • Anna Foutz, Chaffey College
  • Robert DeGroot, USGS

San Bernardino Alliance Member Workspace

San Bernardino Alliance Leader Workspace


1 - Partnerships across educational levels

  • Established a planning group that crosses educational institutions (high school, community college, university). Implemented a joint field trip for students from the Geology Club and CERT Club at Etiwanda High School and from Chaffey Community College. (See Activity 2)
  • Provided a field research opportunity for undergraduate students and M.S. students at CSUSB to work along side Ph.D. students and faculty from USC in logging and interpreting a paleoseismic trench across the Garlock fault. (See Activity 5, below)
2 - Curriculum development
  • Hosted a National Association of Geology Teachers (NAGT)-InTeGrate teaching workshop (September 7-8, 2017) with a focus on strategies for engaging students in introductory geoscience courses, including those taught in large lecture format. (See Activity 3, below)
  • Worked with interested and qualified high school teachers to teach a college-level honors geology course at their high school, for which high school students will earn credit for Geol 101 at California State University, San Bernardino. (See Activity 4, below)
  • Explored opportunities for joint service learning and community engagement opportunities across institutions in order to introduce students to the value of geoscience for their local communities and to build connections between students and faculty across institutions.
3 - Community engagement
  • Hosted a round table event to gather input from local stakeholders interested in broadening participation in the geosciences and supporting the success of geoscience students. (See Activity 1, below)
  • Shared results of the paleoseismic study of the Garlock fault with the commander of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center, who visited the trench
  • Shared results of the paleoseismic study of the Garlock fault with local professional geologists who visited the trench and interacted with students

Pathway Elements

The San Bernardino Alliance pathway map illustrates the various collaborations between 4YR, 2YR and high school institutions, as well as with the Southern California Earthquake Center and professional geologist organizations in the region. Successful interventions include joint, multi-institutional activities for students at various stages along the pathway, including field trips, service learning projects, guest speakers, and visits to dinner meetings of the local professional societies. The underlying motivation is to connect students to their peers and to mentors at institutions that represent the next step on the pathway, as well as to expose them to careers in geology and to geoscience issues that impact the local community. A second type of intervention is to promote high quality teaching in introductory Earth science courses at the university, community college and high school levels, including the development of an honors geology course at the participating high school. To this end the San Bernardino Alliance hosted an NAGT traveling workshop focused on using active learning and societally relevant issues to develop engaging introductory geoscience courses, including those that are offered in large lecture halls.
  1. Round Table Event
  2. Joint Field Trip
  3. NAGT-InTeGrate teaching workshop
  4. High school honors geology course
  5. Geology field research

Pathway Development Criteria

Embedded in the local community

The San Bernardino Allliance brings together teachers and students from Etiwanda High School, Chaffey College, and CSUSB, along with CSUSB geology alumni and other professional geologists from the local area. The core members of the San Bernardino Alliance team from Etiwanda High School and Chaffey College were selected because they had demonstrated themselves to be local champions through their dedication to supporting geoscience student clubs, their participation in Earth Science research, their inclusion of their students in that research, and their Earth Science curriculum development. This Alliance kicked off with a Round Table event in December 2016 from which we gathered community input from faculty, administrators, students and alumni from the three educational institutions listed above as well as geoscience professionals from the region and community users of geoscience information (e.g., emergency response). At the Round Table event CSUSB geology alumni showed a strong level of interest in supporting the next generation of Earth scientists. The San Bernardino Alliance remains embedded in the local community via the participation of high school and college students from the region, who bring with them the experiences of their families and communities. Student participants have surveyed their family and friends to discover the geoscience issues that are considered of highest importance within local communities.

In the teaching workshop (September, 2017) we also expanded the reach of our alliance to include one additional geoscience faculty member from Chaffey Community College and one from UC Riverside. In addition, the workshop involved six other geoscience faculty from CSUSB, four of whom were involved in our initial Round Table event in December 2016 but have not otherwise been involved and two of whom are new to our alliance.

In the process of working on the INCLUDES Alliance proposal for continued funding, we reached out to faculty and department chairs at a number of other institutions of higher education near San Bernardino and received positive responses from the faculty at UC Riverside (four faculty members, including the Earth Sciences department chair), San Bernardino Valley College (1 faculty member) and College of Desert (3 faculty members). These 8 individuals have been added to our planning group email list.

Use geoscience to address a local need or problem

Our alliance has focused on earthquakes as the local problem. This is a serious problem, but is not necessarily perceived as urgent by the local community. The Southern California Earthquake Center provides a good example of how the geoscience community contributes to addressing the earthquake problem in Southern California through scientific research, internships for students, public information on earthquake preparedness, and knowledge-transfer activities between earthquake scientists and engineers. Our San Bernardino Alliance can help to disseminate some of SCEC's outstanding contributions to the greater San Bernardino area.

Multiple learning opportunities connected and sequenced

Our pathway diagram illustrates the existing pathways for students from the San Bernardino region who are interested in geosciences, along with the several activities we are implemented to strengthen those pathways. Activity 3 was an NAGT/InTeGrate traveling workshop that was hosted at CSUSB on September 7-8, 2017. This workshop focused on using active learning pedagogy and societally relevant content to improve the engagement of students in introductory geoscience courses at the university, community college and high school level within the San Bernardino region. Another intervention involved planning joint activities for students in the geology clubs at local high schools, community colleges and universities with representatives who are professional geologists (e.g., field trips, guest speakers, and visits to the dinner meetings of local geoscience professional organizations), so that students at earlier stages of the geoscience pathway will have opportunities to meet and interact with students and faculty who are from institutions that represent later stages in the pathway as well as with geologists who are engaged in various careers. An example if this was Activity 2, in which students from CSUSB, Chaffey College and Etiwanda High School participated in a joint field trip to the San Andreas fault in March 2017. We also worked on planning a joint service learning project but were unable to bring it together within the time period of the pilot program. Activity 4 provides support for high school faculty who are interested in and qualified to teach a college-level geoscience course at their high school. High school students who pass such courses can earn credit for Geol 101 at CSUSB, thus facilitating their progression from high school into college and their awareness of geoscience as a field of study. Activity 5 was a separately funded research project that provided geological research experience for 6 undergraduate and 4 M.S. students, including the opportunity to work closely with two Ph.D. students for a few weeks.

Coupled classroom and service learning opportunities

We attempted to develop a service learning project in collaboration with the San Bernardino County Office of Emergency Services, but multiple changes in staff at the county office prevented us from completing the planning within the pilot period of this grant. We did, however, have one CSUSB student sign up for service learning credit to lead geoscience outreach activities for K-12 students.

Mentoring and signposting that supports students

The joint activities that involved high school, community college and university students, with inclusion of professional geologists provided opportunities for mentoring between faculty and students as well as between students at different educational levels, and between professional geologists and students. At our joint field trip to the San Andreas fault in March 2017 (Activity 2), current students from the three institutions interacted with a professional geologist who is also a CSUSB alumnus, and a current CSUSB graduate student about graduate school and careers in the geosciences. The field research activity (Activity 5) provided sustained interactions between undergraduate students (6), masters students (4) and Ph.D. students (2), along with the 3 faculty mentors who participated and 10-12 professional geologists who visited the trench near the end of the project.

Insights for other Regional Alliances

  • Developing community partnerships takes time.
  • Regular meetings established enduring working relationships and capacity.
  • The alliance builds a support system of maintained motivation.
  • Celebrate small successes.
  • Infusing the vision of EarthConnections into existing activities made a difference.

Publications and Presentations

See all EarthConnections
publications and presentations »

  • McGill, S., Benthien, M., Castillo, B., Fitzsimmons, J., Foutz, A., Keck, D., Noriega, G., Pandya, R., Taber, J., Vargas, B. 2018. The EarthConnections San Bernardino Alliance: Addressing Diversity in the Geosciences Using a Collective Impact Model. Earth Educators' Rendezvous (Lawrence, KS). Abstract
  • McGill, S.F., Benthien, M.L., Castillo, B.A., Fitzsimmons, J., Foutz, A., Keck, D., Manduca, C.A., Noriega, G.R., Pandya, R.E., Taber, J.J., and Vargas, B., 2017, The EarthConnections San Bernardino Alliance: Addressing Diversity in the Geosciences Using a Collective Impact Model, AGU Fall Meeting (New Orleans, LA). Abstract