Keynote Presentation Abstracts

Every Picture Begs a Question (Don't It?)
Perry Samson, Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences and Ben van der Pluijm, Geological Sciences, University of Michigan

When teaching large survey courses to the fervently non-scientific, "data" is often viewed as a four-letter word. Throwing large quantities of data tables on the screen elicits the same response my students might show to the fellow on the street corner suffering from Tourettes Syndrome. However, take that same data and present it visually and interactively, and their response changes in some very positive ways to acceptance and even enthusiasm.

As geoscience data contains, by nature, very spatial information, we are experimenting with the use of interactive spatial concept challenges utilizing wireless PocketPC and laptop computers in survey science classes (see and (more info) ). Given that many people are visual learners and that a great deal of the content learning in the sciences is aided by interpretation of visual information, we have created a system for students to respond to image-based questions. These queries are called Spatial Concept Tests (SCT). Instructors are able to select any image from the Internet (or via upload) and pose a question about the image for discussion. Following Mazur (1997), students respond to spatial questions offered through the PocketPC or laptop and formulate their own answers. The ensemble of dots selected can be displayed by the instructor leading to an in-class discussion in small groups, attempting to reach consensus on the best answer. Typically this leads to an opportunity for whole class discussion as we try to clarify the concept being presented or explain the fact being tested.

This talk describes the evolution of this system and the results of our assessments of student response and changes in student motivation and learning. While still in its infancy. we believe this system offers new opportunities for use of data in large classes and begins to address the day when many students will come to class equipped with web-enabled devices such as laptops, PDAs, and cell phones.

Mazur, E. (1997). Peer Instruction: a users manual. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall.
Spatial Concept Tests
Air Quality Data Tools - from

Teaching Carpentry
Elizabeth (Betsy) Youngman, Phoenix Country Day School

What do you remember from middle school science classes? Was it the science or something else? As a teacher of science, I often ask, is the question How do I bring science to the kids? or is it, How do I bring the kids to science?

After teaching for more than 20 years and participating in scientific research projects that have taken me to the South Pole as well as to the summit of Greenland, I am convinced of the importance of engaging students in science by presenting them with authentic science research questions. But how does a teacher move beyond teaching students to use a "hammer" to teaching them "carpentry"? And just how does one bring the kids to science?

In this talk, I will present my experiences bringing scientific research questions into my middle school classroom. I'll touch on everything from the challenges of wrestling with data and IT issues to the excitement of collecting data in real time. Pairing students with scientists creates an environment of authenticity and fervor. With teamwork, we can create the next generation of carpenters, who will build upon the foundation of scientific understanding that exists today.

Teach Carpentry Presentation Outline (Microsoft Word 120kB Jan24 07)
Teach Carpentry Presentation (PowerPoint 11.7MB Jan24 07)
Climate Change Lesson and Background Documents

Geoscience Education: When will we know that we've been successful?
Frank Hall, Program Officer, National Research Council

Presentation (PowerPoint 1.6MB Jan24 07)

For some time now, we in the Earth Systems Science Education community have been working diligently to have a stronger voice regarding improving the science literacy and environmental stewardship of the nation. This work is occurring as we recognize that we have little representation in the science education community overall. Yet, little attention has focused on what it will look like when we are finally successful. In my presentation, I will present results of recent science education-based reports from the National Research Council. Further, I will bring to the discussion issues that will, hopefully, lead to further discussion of where we as a community wish to go, and present some guideposts that will let us know when we have been successful in our endeavors.