Page prepared for SERC by Sandra Rutherford of Eastern Michigan University.

Methods for Teaching Secondary Earth Science

Sandra Rutherford

Eastern Michigan University

Course Type:
Capstone teaching methods class

Course Size:

Course Summary

This class will introduce the student to: science content standards, hands-on activities, demos, laboratory organization, projects, assessments, differentiation, writing in science, technology, and homework. The preservice teacher should leave the class feeling prepared to student teach Earth Science. Course Prerequisites: ESSC 212 and CURR 305

For Dr. Rutherford's reflections on the course and its design, see Methods for Teaching Secondary Earth Science: Role in the Program.

Course Context:

This class is a seminar-style course with a prerequisite of a midlevel content class and a curriculum class. The students are all secondary pre-service teachers and are majoring or minoring in Earth Science Teaching or in the Integrated Science Major for Teaching. The class meets once a year in the fall only.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to:
  • use the blackboard or overhead effectively
  • use PowerPoint
  • speak in front of other students
  • design a lesson plan
  • alter a "cookbook laboratory" into an inquiry laboratory
  • participate in a mock job interview
  • learn the value of hands-on; minds-on activities
  • find appropriate resources for teaching earth science
  • understand laboratory safety
  • become aware of the creativity involved with teaching
  • increase their awareness of the kind of teacher they want to be with respect to rules and classroom organization
  • improve their professional behaviors

Course Content:

  • Activities for high school students including laboratories, projects, and demos
  • Assessments for high school students including
    • authentic, formative
    • rubrics and grading
    • product
  • Differentiation for high school students including
    • special education
    • TAG
  • Writing in Science
  • Technology in Science
  • General Skills of Teaching
    • 5 E instructional model
    • misconceptions

Teaching Materials:

Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 39kB Apr25 07)

For an example activity from this course, see Movie Clip Lesson Plan


The students have a variety of assignments to determine whether they understand earth science content with respect to a lesson plan. They have several opportunities for presentations and for being creative.

Most important are the new assessments they must pass to pass the course for NCATE. There are 4 assessments in this class. A general lesson plan, an inquiry lesson plan, a reflection of their work and their professional behavior disposition form.

References and Notes:

Required Material
  • Live Text subscription—This course requires a Live Text subscription. You must use Live Text for one or more assessments in order to pass this course. Live Text costs each student $66.75 for a five year subscription (or $81.75 if you add Untied Streaming video capabilities). United Streaming is not mandatory however it is a very powerful resource that you will want to consider purchasing.
  • Content Textbook such as Earth Science by Tarbuck and Lutgens, 11th ed. Prentice Hall or another quality teachers edition high school earth science text no older than 1998
  • Michigan State Board of Education, Michigan Goals and Objectives for Science high school,1607,7-140-42814---,00.html
  • National Research Council (1996) National Science Education Standards ( , Washington, D.C.
  • Michigan High School Content Expectations

My students have a course pack available on the ereserves. This is a collection of material from when I was a teacher. When they leave the class I also give them a CD with everything they have done as well as everything I used in my 8th grade earth science class. All in word files for them to alter.

I train the students in a few GLOBE protocols so they are aware GLOBE exists. They receive material from GLOBE as well. I have many earth science .pdf papers from the Science Teacher on the ereserves as well.

Of course they are introduced to SERC-CARLETON, DLESE and NDSL etc.