UNO Earth Science for Educators: Role in the Program

Page prepared for SERC by Jennifer L. B. Anderson, Ph.D. in consultation with Dr. Bob Shuster.
Robert Shuster in the field.
Bob Shuster, Ph.D. Photo courtesy of Bob Shuster.

A discussion of the design and implementation of an general earth science content course serving in-service teachers through the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

A description of this course is also available.

What Role Does this Course Play in Teacher Preparation?

In the Omaha Public School District, Earth science is not required for graduation, but the Earth science standards must still be covered. Therefore, the Earth Science standards were placed within the Biology, Chemistry, or Physics classes. This created a need for these teachers to understand Earth science concepts, the Earth Science standards, and how they could integrate those concepts and standards into their classes.

The practicing teachers are from all levels (K-12) and science fields. Teachers must be admitted as students at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, through the Education Department. Teachers receive 3 credit-hours for this course which counts toward either their Urban Education certificate or the Masters of Education program at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. The associated grant funds tuition, books, and materials for those teachers coming from the Omaha Public School System.

How does the Course Address Each Role?

Over the course of a summer, teachers develop standards-based, inquiry-based units of study for their own use in the classroom and for inclusion in their portfolios. The course meets 2-3 hours for 2-3 weeks during the summer. Approximately three weeks after the course ends, the teachers reconvene to present to each other their designed curricula.

How is the Course Content Aligned with the National Science Education Standards?

The course is aligned with Nebraska's State Earth Science Standards.

How is the course evaluated.

Teachers fill out in-class evaluations at the end of the course. These evaluations are generally very positive. Other evaluation is anecdotal. The course has run for a number of years and is popular with teachers from the Omaha School District and beyond. The general experience of the geoscience faculty member is positive: "I find myself energized at the end of it. [The teachers] seem happy and appreciative." -- Dr. Robert D. Shuster (personal communication)

Hints for creating a course like this:

Dr. Robert D. Shuster (personal communication)
  • Create and cultivate meaningful collaborations between the Science Departments, the Colleges of Education, and the local school district.
  • Collaborate with members of the Education Department as well as local Master Teachers when developing and designing a course like this.
  • Generate good relationships with the College of Education and/or the Education Department as well as the Deans of the various colleges.
  • Find out what local teachers need by talking with teachers and administrators and be flexible to meet these needs.