Initial Publication Date: September 24, 2020

Involve Students in Immersive Experiences

Engaging and immersive experiences have been shown to increase student interest in the geosciences and their likelihood of majoring in the discipline.

Get Students into the Field

Field-based learning helps your students relate to the practice of being a scientist and develop important career skills. While in the field, students learn by doing which helps them relate abstract concepts from class to a tangible activity. Additionally, students will experience the inevitable issues or ambiguous data that arise when trying to take measurements and use instrumentation outside of the controlled laboratory or classroom environment. Often, they need to be creative and work together to solve problems. Care should be taken in the design of these experiences so that they do not constitute barriers to student participation. For example, cost, being taken into uncomfortable surroundings without preparation, and lack of accessibility for students with disabilities are all factors that can make participation difficult or impossible for some students to participate in field activities. There are many examples of successful strategies that address these potential barriers. For instance, the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD) has developed and run a number of innovative, accessible field trips in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Lynsey Lemay and Peter Berquist conducted a session on Incorporating Field-Based Experiences into the Curriculum as part of their 2016 workshop at the Virginia Community College System Science Peer Group meeting.
Southern California 1 
The Southern California 1 team has been focusing on workforce training and career planning. With additional funding from NSF, they have been able to provide opportunities for students at Mount San Antonio College to learn geoscience in the field alongside professionals.
Lone Star - University Park has developed a 3-story indoor educational rock wall to simulate going into the field and gain the experience of making observations, collecting data, and generating interpretations at an outcrop.
The Michigan team has been working to increase field activities for students to participated in outside of class. One of the goals to continue with this is to include students who may have an interest but are not specifically enrolled in one of the courses yet.

Contextualize Learning with a Sense of Place

July 2011 In the Trenches Cover
Place-based learning helps connect course content with local examples which can be an effective strategy because it helps make course content more relevant to students, thereby increasing content mastery. Focusing on the local area also dovetails well with an emphasis on learning in the field and provides opportunities to tackle local environmental justice issues and other diversity and equity topics. Grounding in a local context can also be helpful in drawing comparisons with far away and unfamiliar places as a method of learning about global or national scale issues.

Oregon: Portland 
As a part of their 2017 workshop, the Portland team explored the historic Vanport Floods as an example of hydrological and societal impacts of flood events and investigated how these two aspects of flood events can be fused to create relevant community based learning experiences.
Washington D.C. Metro Area 
The Washington D.C. Metro Area team use the geology of Washington DC as a tool for helping regional faculty learn how to better engage students in science via field trips.

Engage Students in Research

Engaging students in authentic research experiences has been shown to have multiple benefits for their development. Including authentic research experiences in introductory courses has been called for at the highest levels ( PCAST, 2012 ) and there are many examples of successful research programs at 2YCs . Undergraduate students who have completed as few as one or two geoscience courses have the basic knowledge and skills, and most importantly curiosity, necessary to conduct meaningful research projects.

Opportunities can range from course-based research experiences , to independent study opportunities, to research collaborations with four-year institutions, and much more . Offering the opportunity to do research to all of our students can help more students feel welcome in science and build their confidence.

Change Agent Debra Woodall at Daytona State College founded the Institute of Marine and Environmental Studies where students present their authentic research during the Sharing Our Research with Everyone (ShORE) event. The event is a research symposium for students, scientists and the community.
North Carolina 
The North Carolina team has used a GeoPaths grant from the National Science Foundation to provide research opportunities for students and to facilitate their attendance at Geological Society of America meetings to present their research results.
New York 
In their 2016 workshop, the New York team included a focus on how to get students involved in research, projects, and other hands-on learning activities. Their goal was to encourage the development of undergraduate research opportunities.

Teach with Data

Incorporating data into course activities builds students' quantitative reasoning abilities, strengthens scientific habits of mind, and helps scaffold the reading of scientific literature. Additionally, students learn how to interpret "messy" data. Incorporating data can also help promote quantitative reasoning skills .

Change Agent Lynsey Lemay wrote an essay about her work to build success skills into an Oceanography curriculum through engaging her students with real data sets.
Bryn Benford of the Texas team gives her students experience with collecting and analyzing data using their new three-story rock wall in their science building.

Curriculum Resources that use Geoscience Data

  • GEODE (Google Earth for Online and Distance Education) - GEODE develops materials using Google Maps Engine and Google Earth Engine to link big geoscience data to Google Earth and facilitate authentic research opportunities for undergraduates
  • GETSI (GeoDesy Tools for Societal Issues) - GETSI teaching materials feature geodetic data and quantitative skills applied to societally important issues (climate change, natural hazards, water resources, environmental management).
  • Project EDDIE (Environmental Data-Driven Inquiry and Exploration) - Project EDDIE develops flexible classroom teaching modules using large, publicly available datasets to engage students in STEM and improve their quantitative reasoning. Teaching modules span topics such as ecology, limnology, geology, hydrology, and environmental sciences.
  • Using Data in the Classroom - The NSDL's Using Data website provides information and discussion for educators and resource developers interested in effective teaching methods and pedagogical approaches for using data in the classroom.
  • PIA: Teaching with Data - The Pedagogy in Action module on Teaching with Data addresses the what, why, and how of teaching with data in the undergraduate classroom.
  • The Math You Need, When You Need It - Math You Need provides web modules to help students succeed with mathematics in introductory geoscience classes. The modules help build just-in-time quantitative skills that students need, just before they use them in a geoscience course.