Offer Practical Experiences for Future Teachers

Just as you mentor science majors in research projects, you can mentor future teachers in gaining the experience they need to be successful in the classroom. Offering students the opportunity to plan, execute, and assess a lesson prior to student teaching and graduation gives them the chance to experience the logistics of classroom management while they still have the support of an experienced teacher. These opportunities are akin to providing mentored research opportunities to science majors that prepare them for a senior thesis or graduate work.

Earth science and environmental programs can focus on offering practical opportunities that are most common in the discipline, such as teaching in the field, teaching with spatial data, and using resources such as maps and rocks effectively in the classroom.

Teaching opportunities

The more practice that future teachers have in planning, teaching, reflecting on, and revising lessons, the better. In particular, multiple experiences help future teachers learn to focus lessons around scientific ideas and concepts rather than around activities. To give future teachers experience handling Earth science content, you can:

  • Recruit future teachers to serve as teaching assistants in introductory labs, or as learning assistants
  • Work with future teachers to lead outreach opportunities in local schools; these can be built around events such as Earth Science Week or ShakeOut
  • Partner with science teachers in local high schools and middle schools to bring future teachers into their classrooms as content experts; leading a field trip, for example, is an excellent practical opportunity for a future teacher

Field opportunities

Many Earth scientists consider field experiences to be a fundamental component of learning Earth science. For new teachers, however, designing and leading a field trip can be a daunting task. The more chances future teachers have to get into the field themselves, especially on local field trips, the more likely they are to incorporate those experiences into their own teaching. Consider collaborating with education programs to offer for-credit field trips for future teachers that focus on local geology, ecosystems, or environmental issues.

Research opportunities

Giving future teachers the opportunity to engage in a research project in the geosciences gives them a deeper understanding of the process of science that can then inform their science teaching. Read more about how research opportunities can influence future teachers in this short essay by Char Bezanon of St. Olaf College.

Research opportunities can be integrated into the existing curriculum, or new opportunities can be created with external funding: