E2Classroom: Delivering Cutting Edge Science to Schools
How can classroom educators learn about cutting-edge investigations not yet in textbooks? How can researchers share their discoveries with teachers and their students? For nine years, one answer has been the “Earth2Class Workshops for Teachers” at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades, NY.
Each month during the academic year, E2C teachers have the opportunity to interact with LDEO scientists, learning about a wide range of inquiries in the geosciences, and then developing classroom applications. Climate changes, earthquakes and other natural hazards, deep-sea drilling, vast lakes hidden beneath Antarctic ice sheets, and harmful algal blooms are among topics shared in the current series.
E2C was originated in 1998 by Dr. Michael J. Passow, an 8th grade Earth Science educator at White Plains (NY) Middle School who also has adjunct appointments as Associate Research Scientist at LDEO and Professor of Science Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Begun as a format to share American Meteorological Society Education Program teacher-training materials, for two years, Passow and LDEO scientists met with a small number of teachers from the New York area. But in 2000, E2C joined with the TC North Hudson Electronic Education Empowerment Project, and workshops held at the LDEO campus were telecast live to participants two hundred miles away at Adirondack Community College in Glens Falls.
NHEEP brought in the other two key members of the E2C Team, Dr. Cristiana Assumpcao and Frederico Baggio. Dr. Assumpcao earned her doctorate in Educational Technologies utilizing the E2C program. Baggio, an Information Technologies consultant, created the ever-expanding web site, www.earth2class.org. They continue to co-direct the E2C activities with Passow from their home base in Sao Paulo, Brazil, using a variety of electronic communication technologies.
E2C expanded further in 2004 when Passow and LDEO research scientist Dr. Gerardo Iturrino were awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation Geoscience Education Program. This funding has enabled more teachers and scientists to participate, as well as providing support for summer conferences and curriculum development workshops.
Key to the program has been cooperation of LDEO research scientists. Their willingness to meet with teachers on Saturday mornings, develop presentations for an audience quite different from the scientific peers with whom they usually interact, and provide feedback about curriculum materials developed about their work are vital to the success of this program.
Each Workshop opens with an introductory presentation by Passow that gives participants a general overview of the theme. Then the scientist(s) describe how researchable questions arise, methods used in the field or lab, significance of their discoveries, and future plans. Teachers often ask questions that not only assist them in responding to their students’ questions, but also occasionally give the scientists new areas for inquiry.
The final portion of each session involves opportunities to model classroom applications. Watching colleagues describe how to teach about the topic or participating in development of curricular materials enhance participants’ confidence that they can successfully incorporate the information and activities into their teaching.
Some workshops include special guided tours of LDEO facilities. For example, Dr. Dallas Abbott, in conjunction with her talk about identifying impact craters on the sea floor, discussed how she uses cores as she and the E2C teachers stood in the LDEO Deep Sea Sample Repository surrounded by more than seventy miles of ocean bottom materials collected during the past half century and available to researchers.
For the vast numbers of teachers and students who cannot attend the live sessions, a wide range of resources are provided through www.earth2class.org. These include archived versions of the Workshops, links to online science education websites, publications and news stories about the program, and images. One of the most accessed sections of the site is the “Earth Science Curriculum Units,” a collection of online resources that include key concepts, vocabulary terms, selected student investigations, and additional web sites.
The Earth2Class will continue to provide live and online support for educators and students, and always seeks new opportunities to expand what it offers to a wider audience.#