Earth System Science for Teachers

Joel Johnson

University of New Hampshire

Course Type:
Earth System Science

Course Size:

Course Summary

This is a new 2 week summer institute/course we are developing as part of our NSF funded GEO-Teach Project. The course will be taught for the first time during the summer of 2007. This summer institute/course is designed for both in-service and pre-service teachers and will be mediated by several University of New Hampshire faculty and staff and faculty from our partner institutions; Pennsylvania State University, Dillard University in Louisiana, and Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. The course is designed to provide teachers with an overview of the major content areas in Earth Science, with an emphasis on the integration/interactions of processes and systems within Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere.

Course Context:

The summer institute/course consists of both lab and lecture exercises as well as field experiences, including a research cruise on the local estuary and a field trip to Mt. Washington, where a regional atmospheric chemistry and weathering monitoring station is located. Our summer institute/course is part of a larger project that has separate related activities for the in-service and pre-service teachers. The in-service teachers enrolled in the summer institute will also have a graduate student fellow assigned to them for academic year follow-up activities, which are focused on integrating Earth system science teaching and research themes into the teacher's current curricula. Each graduate fellow will be assigned to 2 teachers and will visit the schools weekly throughout the academic year follow-up period. The pre-service teachers enrolled in the summer institute will participate in an 8 week research immersion program designed to give them an opportunity to conduct Earth science research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

Course Goals:

Our two-week course is designed to serve as (1) a content refresher course for in-service teachers originally trained in Earth Sciences as well as in- and pre-service teachers trained in other science disciplines and (2) to inspire in- and pre-services teachers to take a pedagogical Earth System approach to their classrooms. The primary goal of this component of our overall GEO-Teach project will be to channel the excitement of research and discovery into traditional high school and middle school curricula by working with and training teachers from the interdisciplinary Earth System Science perspective.

Course Content:

The course content will use "Water in the Earth System" as a theme to tie together focused lectures, lab activities, and field trips in the broad topical areas of Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. The lithosphere module will begin with the formation of the planet; the development and evolution of Earth's lithosphere;links between the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere; and the interplay in these components in the planetary-scale processes of plate tectonics; evolution of Earth's surface; and the geological context of climate change. The atmospheric component will focus on weather and climate variability, air quality, and atmospheric chemistry. Content will focus on atmospheric circulation (regional and global patterns), weather patterns and predictions, paleo and future climate variability, greenhouse gases, an introduction to basic atmospheric chemistry, and finally air quality and human health impacts. The hydrosphere component of the program will emphasize the key features of how the world's ocean basins form and how they have evolved through time. Emphases will be placed on the initial development of water on the Earth, the tectonic evolution of the ocean basins, and the physical, biological, chemical, and geological processes that occur within the ocean and at its margins; including ocean-atmosphere, ocean-seafloor and water column processes and interactions. The field experiences will capitalize on the course content and inquiry based activities as well as provide unique opportunities to collect data and discuss field techniques. Throughout the course, we will also allow time for the teachers to discuss how to implement curricular ideas and activities, discussed throughout the course, into their classrooms.

Teaching Materials:

We are currently developing our teaching materials.


We have a team of education assessment specialists from WestEd that we are currently working with on the assessment aspects for this course and the overall project. The assessment for GEO-Teach will focus on measuring gains in both earth science content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. All participants will take an assessment on both domains before beginning the two-week summer institute. In-service teachers will take a post-test at the end of the 2007-08 school year after have worked with a graduate student fellow during the school year, while pre-service teachers will take the post-test at the end of the summer institute.