This material was originally developed as part of the Carleton College Teaching Activity Collection
through its collaboration with the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants

picture of Mary Savina

Mary Savina

Carleton College
Northfield, Minnesota

Carleton College (a four-year liberal arts college) has a long-standing teacher certification program (grades 5-12) in earth sciences. At Carleton, students seeking earth science certification complete a disciplinary major in geology, several supporting science courses and at least six courses in Educational Studies. They complete their teacher certification with a semester of student teaching, most often in the fall after graduation. (The full description of the teacher education program is on Carleton's web site, along with the specific course requirements for earth science certification) Historically, the Geology Department and Educational Studies Department have collaborated on articulating the goals of the earth science certification program and in identifying the Carleton courses that best match the requirements for licensure in Minnesota. Because each geology student at Carleton completes a major independent project as part of their major, most students completing the earth science certification program have some research experience.

At any one time, only one or two of the forty or so junior and senior geology majors are in the formal earth science certification program. However, a much larger number of geology (and other) majors are interested in education. At Carleton, many of these students participate in student-led environmental education programs ("Kids for Conservation" for third-grade students in the Northfield public schools, "Prairie and Wood," a summer day camp, and a variety of other activities). After graduation, they get jobs at environmental education centers, in private schools or through programs like Teach for America. One of the challenges we face is how to help these students self-identify and receive the kind of mentoring and curricular support they need in their undergraduate years. Another challenge is increasing the number of formal and informal opportunities available for these students both to teach and to participate in campus conversations about environmental education. Science departments and the Environmental and Technology Studies program are cooperating in setting up these opportunities.

A second group that needs special support is students interested in elementary education. Although Carleton does not offer elementary education certification, about 10-15 students in the humanities and social sciences graduate each year and go on to elementary school teaching, in private schools and through Teach for America. Many later return to school for a masters' degree and eventual certification. An ad-hoc group of science and mathematics faculty has begun discussing ways to encourage these students to target their undergraduate math and science courses to prepare themselves optimally for elementary education. For this group of students, Carleton's introductory science classes, including introductory geology, are particularly important: virtually all of these classes are taught using active learning strategies and have strong project-based assignments and labs.

Historically, Carleton geology faculty have played a strong role on the national level in science education initiatives through AAAS, the NAS, AGU, PKAL and other organizations. We expect these relationships to continue. Locally, we partner with the Cannon River Watershed Partnership to offer in-service courses for current teachers and with local nature centers to provide practical experience for students.