People, the Education Agenda
the next decade, environmental stresses in society such as those associated
with population growth, pollution, dwindling resources, extreme weather,
climate change, land-use changes, and space weather are expected to become
even more acute and costly. A balanced strategy to respond to these stresses
should include efforts to use the best available scientific data to reduce
scientific uncertainty and advocate responsible mitigation and adaptation.
An effective strategy must also include an educational component to ensure
a competitive workforce for the 21st Century. Thus, the geoscience community
must develop adequate knowledge, information, and capability for prediction
and assessment, as well as an agenda to develop informed and educated
leaders to make decisions. Geoscience education at a broad range of levels
is essential to ensure appropriate tools and effective leadership are
in place. A new, innovative program of Earth system science training and
education at all levels should be initiated and developed now to foster
an informed citizenship.
By their very nature,
the geosciences are an integrating educational theme. While one may learn
mathematics, anthropology, biology, physics, economics, and other "single"
disciplines, Earth system science is a crossroad where many of these disciplines
intersect and impact our everyday lives. As the technological infrastructure
envisioned later in this plan is realized, educators will be able to access
laboratory experiments from around the world in real time or retrospectively.
The excitement of the geosciences will be conveyed to a much wider audience
through the capabilities and flexibility of 21st Century technologies.
For this agenda, GEO educational efforts must make investments at several
NSF focus should
continue to be on graduate training for future research scientists. However,
these researchers must be skilled in the broader Earth system sciences
and sensitive to important environmental decision making issues. GEO will
balance graduate-level research fellowship and training opportunities
to ensure students broaden their Earth system science experiences. GEO
will also explore the need to create a master's level geoscience teaching
degree. GEO will work with the NSF Directorate for Education and Human
Resources (EHR) to provide opportunities for geoscience education proposals
with both strong program content and strong pedagogy. In a similar way,
GEO will work with other NSF units and other organizations to enhance
the quality of instruction and provide practical experience for individuals
pursuing geoscience-related careers. GEO will actively contribute to NSF-wide
activities to support integrated graduate education and research training
that will focus on interdisciplinary topics and promote innovation.
About half of America's
youth enroll in institutes of post-secondary education, providing leverage
for improvements in undergraduate education. Science-based education (particularly
for non-science majors) can be transformed through new and emerging instructional
technologies and active, hands-on, inquiry-based study. Geosciences education
at the college level can be made appealing, interesting, and relevant,
at the same time being rigorous and quantitative. The geosciences may
be unique in the integration of disciplines to inspire students. Already
there is a broad range of efforts underway to develop undergraduate level
Earth system science materials. However, these largely individual university-based
efforts should be more widely accessible to institutions of higher education
and to the broader community. Systemic changes incorporating successful
elements of these experimental programs need to be encouraged. GEO will
invest in programs that utilize emerging information technologies to disseminate
geoscience education content, use new pedagogies, and incorporate novel
assessment techniques. There is also a need to link the teaching communities
using these materials, particularly those that use web-based approaches.
Undergraduate education should address all categories of students including
geoscience majors, pre-professionals, and general education students.
Therefore, GEO will seek to expand opportunities for undergraduate research
experiences by including students on research teams, increasing educational
access to research facilities, and developing state-of-the-art computer-based
teaching labs tailored expressly for the geosciences.
K–12 AND PUBLIC
exist for improvement in geoscience education in elementary, secondary
and informal settings. The geosciences provide a natural and accessible
window on the world of science. Nearly every child displays a curiosity
about the Earth. The dynamic character of the atmosphere, ocean, and solid
Earth provides numerous opportunities for discovery and personal growth.
Enhancements in geoscience education can have profound impacts on people
in pre-college classrooms and in informal science educational settings,
including museums and science centers as well as through films, television,
video, compact discs, and other multimedia. Kindergarten through grade
(K-12) activities that can attract more individuals into the geosciences
will help ensure that there are well-informed geoscience researchers and
leaders in the future. As experience in K-12 geoscience education investment
grows, additional coordination and collaboration will be needed to develop
effective programs. GEO will form active partnerships with EHR, professional
organizations and other groups engaged in K-12 education efforts.
As with most of
the sciences, women and specific ethnic groups continue to be under- represented
in geosciences. GEO encourages and supports efforts to engage individuals
from these groups in geoscience research and education. GEO will increase
its efforts to address the under-representation of women and minorities
in the geosciences by encouraging their active participation in its programs.
GEO supports special Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) site
activities that assist under-represented groups. GEO will also expand
its support for diversity-enhancing activities at science and technology
centers, and will substantially increase its support for focused activities
designed to provide students from under-represented groups with opportunities
to learn about and participate in geoscience research.
EARTH SCIENCE CURRICULUM
GEO will play a
catalytic role in the reform of science education in pre-collegiate and
non- classroom settings. To optimize its impact, GEO will work with EHR,
other NSF units, other Federal agencies, university consortia, professional
societies, and private-sector firms. GEO also will work to improve the
education curricula in collegiate settings. Enhancement of undergraduate
geoscience courses should expose a wide range of students to scientific
principles and practice through discovery-based and inquiry-based learning.
These efforts will emphasize the value of observational, conceptual, and
analytical skills as the foundation for many careers, including education
and public service. Because the job market for geoscientists is changing
rapidly, education and training at graduate and postdoctoral levels will
emphasize sound intellectual and technical foundations for pursuit of
diverse careers where geoscience knowledge will prove invaluable. Geoscience
education should be made more attractive to women and under-represented
ethnic and racial groups encouraging them to pursue careers in the geosciences,
increasing diversity in the community.
By targeting geoscience
education as a high priority, GEO expects to encourage many geoscientists
who are naturally inclined to pursue educational activities to engage
in innovative geoscience educational activities. Because experience has
demonstrated that some of the most significant advances in education occur
when research scientists work together on collaborative teams with educators,
GEO will work to facilitate the formation of such collaborations. Strategies
to be explored include supplements to research awards supporting team-building
efforts and awards enabling educators to work on projects and at major
facilities with geoscience researchers. GEO also will promote the development
of educational alliances among researchers and educators in university-level
consortia and will explore the potential for working with professional
societies that share its goals for improved geoscience education.