Rebecca Teed: Using Changing Biosphere in Concepts in Earth Science for Middle-Childhood Educators II at Wright State University-Main Campus
About this CourseThis is an Earth science class for education majors preparing to teach science for students in grades 4–9 (aged about 9 to about 14 years). It emphasizes interactions among Earth's systems.
Earth Systems for Pre-service Science Teachers
My students are preparing to teach science themselves and are expected to learn through inquiry. This course is intended to address a number of major themes in middle-grades science standards, and to emphasize approaches and topics that are especially challenging, like systems thinking and Earth history.This module offers an important hook for Earth history: the current mass extinction resulting from multiple modern ecological crises including climate change, invasive species, and habitat destruction. Systems thinking is vital to understanding the chains of cause and effect that drive both ancient and modern mass extinctions. My students were very interested in the similarities between ancient and modern disasters.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterialsI did not use Unit 3. Since this was an Earth systems course, my students had a number of opportunities to practice analysis of interactions among the biosphere, geosphere, etc. in other course components.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
I had a small class of students who are preparing to become teachers for grades 4–8, licensed to teach science and another subject (math, social studies, or language arts). It ran from 9:05-11:35 twice a week, and usually started with a lecture and then moved on to group research culminating in a presentation. I used five of the 50-minute Changing Biosphere modules in the place of several of those lectures, spread out over several weeks (9/15 to 11/3). After we finished the module, each student group developed and presented a mass-extinction project.
AssessmentsOn the homework for Unit 1, I was happy to see that each student had his or her own opinion on biodiversity patterns and could justify that opinion, even if it was only in a limited way. Several also explained how multiple people could look at the same data and draw different conclusions about what it meant. On the content post-test I do for my class, the Fall 2015 section showed a substantially higher gain on a question about placing events on a timeline than the previous section. On the homework for Unit 3 (now Unit 2) and Unit 6 (now Unit 5), students also had their own opinions on the course material, which generally differed from those of their teammates.
OutcomesOverall, the module connected the themes of the various subjects of the class, which in turn had been chosen because studying those topics would prepare students for the licensure test they had to take and the standards they had to teach. During this class, students examined volcanic eruptions, global warming, and recent discoveries about Mars and analyzed them using systems thinking. It has always been tough to get them to use a systems-thinking approach on Earth history topics because they tend to think about extinct animals and ancient supercontinents as starting points for processes that led to the present, not as the results of such processes.
This year, I felt like the final project on mass extinctions (non-InTeGrate, done after Unit 5) used a little more cause-and-effect language than past projects on Earth history. The students were examining events, rather than animals or shapes on maps, and they had built up enough of a background over the term to think about why these extinctions happened.