Why should geoscience departments work to prepare well-qualified Earth Science teachers?

Written by Char Bezanson, Science Teacher, Eastview High School, Apple Valley, MN and Instructor in Education, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN.

Based on Presentation by Robert Ridkey, USGS, at the 2003 workshop Developing the Earth Science Teacher Workforce .

1. There is a significant need for well-qualified Earth Science teachers.

At a time when the National Science Education Standards are calling for more and better Earth Science instruction for all students, the number of science teachers with a college major in an earth science is declining, relative to other sciences.

At the high school level, only 72% of earth science teachers are certified to teach Earth Science (with a major or minor), an eight-point decline from 1994 to 2002 (CCSSO, 2003). At the middle school level, where most Earth Science courses are taught, less than 20% of Earth Science teachers majored in an earth science area. Most are majors in other sciences, science education, or elementary education.

2. Programs that prepare geoscience majors to teach or to work as professional scientists provide career options for students.

Students who are well-trained in the earth sciences and in educational practice are in high demand as science teachers. While students may initially intend to work as professional earth scientists, changes in interests and priorities make it inevitable that many will seek other work, including teaching. Teaching and public interaction is also a component of many professional jobs. Providing good educational role modeling and aligning with licensure requirements allows students to maximize their career opportunities.

Many science teachers enter the field of education after earning a B.S. or advanced degree in a science field. Typically, they invest an additional two years taking education and science courses to fulfill licensure requirements. With appropriate advising and alignment of coursework, these graduates could complete licensure and student teaching requirements in a year or less.

3. Supporting teaching as an option for geoscience majors can contribute to maintaining and increasing enrollment in geoscience courses.

4. Supporting future and practicing teachers by providing research experiences, field courses, and workshops can provide new opportunities for career involvement by faculty.