Minnesota Teachers of Earth Science:

A Series of Profiles

Jeanne Hanzlick
Northfield Middle School
Northfield, Mn

After 21 years of teaching, Jeanne Hanzlick still gets excited about learning and understanding new and old scientific discoveries; a quality she tries to model and instill in her middle school Earth Science class. Last summer Jeanne spent four days in Utah participating in a NSF funded Research Experience for teachers and geology undergrads, absorbing the information and asking questions in order to develop a deep understanding of geologic formations. But the problem is finding a meaningful way to bring this information back to her 8th graders.

"[Any science class or field experience] needs to be taken for the content. Teachers really need the deep understanding of thier subject matter. But then you need some sort of a class to learn how to present it. It takes a lot of time to find a way to make the material meaningful. Given the middle school's surroundings, limitations and materials I have spent hours trying to figure out how to teach what I learned last summer [in Utah] ."

Jeanne does not like to lecture to her class, she would rather the students be involved in the discovery and inquiry processes of science. But when she has to teach something like rocks, she is at a loss. "I remember the rock lab from when I was in middle school and how the rocks were suppose to behave with the acid, but never did. How do I take this and make it interesting? Organize the topic into a bigger picture?"

Jeanne's degree from the University of Minnesota was in General Science. Even though she took a variety of Earth Science courses, she doesn't remember much information from the classes. Her impression is that they were large classes with lots of lecture.

Since her learning style is hands on, Jeanne has sought out opportunities for professional development that are hands on and would be meaningful for her students. Her latest focus is a field or immersion program. Last summer, Utah, next summer Space Camp. Maybe the next summer, Minnesota if such an opportunity existed for her.