Teacher Preparation > Supporting Preservice Teachers > Browse Teacher Preparation Courses > Minnesota State University, Mankato: Earth Science for Elementary Educators

Earth Science For Elementary Educators

Course Type:
Pre-Service Teacher Content Course

Course Size:
Lecture/Lab: 120/24 Students

Course Summary
Students examine giant potholes at Taylors Falls, MN

This course is directed at preparing pre-service elementary educators for licensure and success in the K-8 classroom. It uses past and present scientific inquiry into fundamental earth science questions concerning the structure of the solar system, deformation of earth's crust and causes of ice ages to investigate core concepts in astronomy, geology and meteorology/climatology. Students uses hands-on labs and field trips to build an integrated understanding of the forces that shape the world observable around them. The pre-service teachers also focus on how to relate the material effectively to K-8 students by developing, practicing and critiquing best practices relevant to this content area.

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

Course Context:

This course provides the sole exposure to earth & space science for pre-service elementary teachers NOT concentrating in science. This course assumes students have no college background with the subject matter. Students may be relatively weak in science and math with significant phobias regarding it.

Elementary educators in this course are assumed to be preparing for other disciplines such as early childhood, math, social studies, etc. In practice, however, many of these teachers will end up teaching multiple subjects including earth science, particularly in small rural schools or charter schools. It should be noted that earth science is usually taught in the middle school years covered by this license.

Course Goals:

This course prepares pre-service elementary educators NOT concentrating in science for licensure in Minnesota. Students are introduced to core concepts in Astronomy, Geology, Meteorology and Climatology. Students practice and model pedagogical techniques relevant to teaching earth and space science content in the K-8 classroom by:

Course Content:

This course addresses core concepts in geology, meteorology/climatology and astronomy through the context of large scale historic geologic questions.

Teaching Materials:

Materials available for this course on this website include:


This course assesses student learning of content knowledge, the process of scientific inquiry as it has occurred though history and pre-service teacher's ability to transfer content into the classroom.
Student understanding of scientific inquiry is evaluated through analysis of a major scientific question in each area.
  • Astronomy - Ptolemaic vs. Copernican Solar System Structure
  • Geology - Evolution of Plate Tectonic Theory from Continental Drift
  • Meteorology/Climatology - Theoretical Causes of Ice Ages
These overarching questions are posed through the initial lab on the Nature of Science and are answered over the course of inquiry during the semester. The answers are provided in multi-lab integrated unit reports assessing knowledge and pedagogical techniques by area.

Pedagogical practices are also assessed through a peer reviewed classroom lesson and demonstration.

Final exam assesses content by asking "kid" questions any elementary teacher may face. See teaching materials available for examples.

References and Notes:

This course has been taught by a number of faculty on the MSU campus over the past 6 years. Offerings under the same name hosted through Normandale Community College serve the same objective but were designed independently. The material on this website represent the course as it was initially designed and will vary in some aspects from the subsequent activities of these individual instructors.

Science education research is rich in studies that address issues such as prior knowledge and science phobia that may occurr when teaching preservice teachers. Examples include: