Teacher Preparation > Supporting Preservice Teachers > Browse Teacher Preparation Courses > University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire: Introductory Earth Science
Page prepared for SERC by Heather Rissler in consultation with Dr. Karen Havholm

Karen Havholm

Introductory Earth Science

Author Profile

Course Type:
Introductory Earth Science Course

Course Size:
45 to 65 Elementary/Middle School Education Majors

Course Summary
Earth Science (GEOL 106) is an introductory science course offered by the Geology department at UW-Eau Claire, with enrollment limited to Elementary Education majors. Earth Science is a field and lab based course that focuses predominantly on geology and also covers some oceanography, meteorology, and planetary geology. The course content is science-focused and does not include formal pedagogy content, which is covered in a subsequent Science Teaching Methods course. Although pedagogy is not directly covered in this science course, the instructor endeavors to "raise to the students' consciousness about the variety of teaching methods being modeled". This helps students to understand how they may address Earth Science content in their future classrooms.

Course Context:

Earth Science is an introductory course taken by Elementary/Middle School Education majors. The course is focused on science content and does not directly addressing science teaching methods.

Course Goals:

Course Content:

The Earth Science course focuses on Geology and also covers topics in Oceanography, Meteorology, and Planetary Geology and includes 4 to 6 field labs that model how scientists examine geologic outcrops. Students make observations and interpretations during field experiences and as the term progresses take on more independence. Students learn the process of field geologic observation and cover content in labs that includes learning to identify different types of rocks.

While learning and practicing skills in the Earth Sciences is a major focus of the course content, it is essential that students "establish confidence and see the value of the subject matter to their lives".

Teaching Materials:

The text used for this course is Earth Science (11th ed.) by Tarbuck and Lutgens. The text is used as a reference book for the course. Teaching materials also include articles and news items. Content is also covered in lab and field experiences.


Following field experiences, students write a local geology report drawing a cross section of the local geology observed in field labs and providing a time line of events. Student then pick specific events, such as intrusion of granite, and explain how their observations provide clues to the cause of specific geologic events.

Other forms of assessment used in this course include:

  • Quizes following each lab to address key points
  • Field test (using a new location, students independently work up a cross section and write a geologic history)
  • Lab test on rock and mineral identification
  • Concept maps
  • Short-answer tests
  • Semester projects that vary and can include:
    • Interacting with a network of teachers in the community to observe science teaching, followed by a written report of their experience.
    • Writing a children's book about an Earth Science topic
    • Writing a report about an Earth resource

References and Notes:

Earth Science (Geol 106) at UW-Eau Claire is a course formatted to address Earth Science content. However, several mechanisms are in place to weave issues related to science education into the course. Particular attention is placed on engendering confidence in pre-service teachers and modeling teaching practices that they can use in their future classrooms. For example, while identifying rocks and minerals is a skill that is assessed in the course, the long-term goal is that when students encounter a child bringing a rock into their future classroom, they can "launch into an exciting story about the earth".