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Prepare Future Teachers


Developing Earth literacy in schools and the general public is not just about making content available; K-12 teachers need to be prepared to teach Earth science. This set of web pages is designed to help you learn more about teacher preparation in the United States and in your region, explore strategies for strengthening the role of Earth and environmental science in teacher preparation, and view successful strategies from your colleagues across the country.

What is Teacher Preparation?

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More than 200,000 students a year complete teacher preparation programs in the United States. These programs can be undergraduate or graduate degrees, certificate programs, or other dual-degree programs. Such broad scope leads to a wide variety of approaches that are unique to every institution.

The Next Generation Science Standards

Take a closer look at the standards »What gets taught in the K-12 classroom is partly determined by standards that students are expected to meet. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), released in April, 2013, include significantly more Earth science content and skills than previous standards, creating an opportunity for teacher preparation programs to strengthen their own science content.

Strengthen the role of Earth Science and Sustainability

In most school districts in the United States, Earth science is taught as part of the curriculum in elementary and middle school, but not in high school, where the focus is on physics, chemistry, biology, and math. Among Earth scientists, it is very common to hear that they didn't "discover" geology or environmental science until they were in college. While some schools offer an advanced placement (AP) course in Environmental Science, it is far less popular than AP Calculus or Physics because it isn't likely to "count" for an equivalent course in college. At the most basic level, more exposure to Earth science concepts in K-12 schools could lead to more students majoring in the Earth and environmental sciences. More broadly, what is taught at the elementary and secondary levels can lead to an Earth-literate citizenry and is an important component of building a sustainable society.

Bridge Disciplinary Divides to learn new strategies. Teacher preparation programs are often housed in education departments or schools, that work with states to determine the program requirements. Working with your colleagues in those departments from the outset can help you strengthen the role of geoscience in a way that complements the existing program.

Support Future Teachers in your Geoscience Courses to help them develop content knowledge and science skills. Whether or not you have degree programs in teaching at your institution, you have future teachers in your courses—especially your introductory courses. A bit of strategic planning can turn an introductory course into an opportunity to help these students learn the science skills and content knowledge that will help them be excellent teachers in the future.

Offer Practical Experiences for Future Teachers. Future teachers benefit from repeated opportunities to engage in teaching in the classroom, getting out into the field, and getting involved in research. Practical teaching experiences can also act as a way to recruit students who may not know yet that they are interested in education.

Offer Professional Development for Practicing Teachers. Teacher preparation does not end when students receive their degrees. Ongoing professional development builds skills and knowledge and is a great way for departments to connect with the community.

Build Connections to Strengthen K12 Teaching ». Degree programs for future teachers often exist at the intersection of content disciplines, such as life sciences or Earth science, and schools or departments of education. Some of the InTeGrate Implementation Programs explored ways to strengthen communication and cooperation at these intersection points.

Models of Program Design and Implementation

Some of the InTeGrate implementation programs had a particular emphasis on strengthening the preparation of K12 teachers to teach geoscience. Their program pages are deep descriptions of program design, implementation, and outcomes. From these examples, you can learn how about integrating geoscience into teaching methods courses, developing new teacher preparation programs, initiating change in teacher preparation programs across a statewide network, and other important activities. You can also see a synthesis of lessons learned about building connections to strengthen K-12 teaching drawn from the experiences of all the implementation teams.

Grand Valley State University
Washington State Colleges and Universities
Mercer university

Contribute Examples of Successful Strategies

We invite faculty to contribute example activities, courses, degree program descriptions, and professional development program descriptions that have been successful in many different contexts. Share your experiences to help build a collection of model programs and inspire other departments and programs that aspire to develop stronger programs for future teachers.

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