Page prepared for SERC by Jennifer L. B. Anderson, Ph.D. in consultation with Dr. Bob Shuster.

Earth Science for Educators

Robert D. Shuster, Ph.D.
Dept. of Geography/Geology

Course Type:
In-service Professional Development

Course Size:
7-24 practicing K-12 teachers

Course Summary

This Earth science content course is offered in the summer for practicing K-12 teachers working toward a Certificate in Urban Education or a Masters of Education. Teachers explore the interdisciplinary nature of Earth science, learn about Earth science standards, participate in Urban Field Trips, and develop inquiry-based units of study for use in their classrooms. This course is part of 9 years of collaboration between the Colleges of Education and the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and the Omaha Public School District. One faculty member from the Department of Geography and Geology teaches this course.

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

Course Context:

Activities include minimal lecture, hands-on learning, and local field trips. Course material and field trips focus on the "Urban Environment" which is locally relevant to Omaha Public School teachers and students. The course emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of Earth science, including the scientific method, internal nature of the Earth and Earth materials.

Course Goals:

During this course, practicing teachers will...
  • Improve their Earth science content knowledge.
  • Become more familiar with national, state, and school district Earth science standards.
  • Learn how to incorporate these and other standards into their classrooms using an inquiry-based approach.
  • Develop inquiry-based curricula aligned with content standards to use in their classrooms.

Course Content:

Topics depend on teacher need and interest each year, and may include river systems, ground water, glacial geology, mass wasting, weathering, and soils. Field trips are taken to on-campus sites (investigating building materials and landscaping), local quarries, nature preserves, and urban sites to examine urbanization, channelization, and mass wasting in cities.

Teaching Materials:

No information available at this time.


Teachers must design a curriculum unit that addresses one or more Earth science standards and is on a topic with which they were initially uncomfortable when they began the course. They present these final projects to each other and these projects are available to be shared with the other teachers.

References and Notes:

  • Major funding for this course is provided from a National Science Foundation Urban Systemic Program grant to the Omaha Public Schools and University of Nebraska, Omaha (Grant #9550559). This program is entering its final year of a ten-year grant and is expected to become self-sustaining because of the level of involvement of non-grant-supported teachers outside of the Omaha Public Schools.
  • Dr. Shuster presented a talk about this course at the North-Central GSA Meeting in 2005 (abstract).