Page prepared for SERC by Sadredin C. Moosavi and John McDaris.

Earth Science in Elementary Education

Course Type:
Science Education

Course Size:
Lecture/Lab 24/24

Course Summary

Earth Science in Elementary Education is the geologic content course in the integrated science teacher development sequence. The six hour combined lecture/lab course requires students to work in teams to solve problems and think critically and creatively to actively explore numerous materials and processes of the physical Earth while developing pedagogical techniques to transmit this content to K-8 students. Methods will include hands-on/minds-on experiences, inquiry-oriented investigations, constructivism, concept maps, group discussions, demonstrations, and student presentations. Students learn by doing hands-on, inquiry-based cooperative learning that will not be limited to scheduled labs and may also be done during lecture time. Students will work with a classroom earth science teacher in a clinical experience before preparing a detailed classroom lesson related to the course content. A two day field trip to the Canadian shield is required.

For Dr. Mattox's reflections on the course and its design, see Earth Science in Elementary Education: Role in the Program.

Course Context:

Students in this course can be at any point in the pre-service science course sequence, as it assumes no content background knowledge beyond high school. Freshmen and sophomores typically dominate the course, though juniors and seniors are also present. The course is taken before the pedagogy component of the student's program.

Course Goals:

As part of the teacher preparation sequence, this course seeks to:
  1. Increase content knowledge about earth science.
  2. Increase confidence in presenting science in the classroom.
  3. Increase student knowledge of methods used to teach science and assess learning.
  4. Compile existing teaching resources and develop new inquiry-based classroom activities.
  5. Demonstrate fluency in Michigan science standards and familiarity with the MI Educational Assessment Program.

Course Content:

The content of this course is focused on the materials and structures of the physical earth, from the rocks and minerals and their connection through the rock cycle to the evolution of the earth's interior through plate tectonic mechanisms. The nature of science and geologic time are explored as are processes affecting humans in both positive (e.g. resources) and negative (e.g. earthquakes) ways. Students explore these content areas in a field trip and the teaching of geology through classroom clinical observations.

Teaching Materials:

Materials available for this course on this website include:


Assessment in this course is divided nearly evenly between objective content tests and pedagogical matters. The content tests take the form of written tests and lab exams and quizzes. Pedagogical content assessment occurs through evaluation of an earth science children's book, classroom teaching clinical experience, and development of a classroom lesson. These activities are supplemented by in-class problems and hands-on activities and the field trip.

References and Notes:

This course is part of a 12-credit series of four courses designed as a group in accordance with Michigan standards, which encourage the teaching of integrated science with a balance of biological, earth, space and physical sciences. These courses were designed specifically for pre-service teachers instead of using pre-existing general education courses to cover science content.