National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Southeastern Section Newsletter
Email Edition - Summer / Fall 2002
The President's Thoughts    

As we progress through our Fall semester, and having just completed summer duties, I would like to focus on an issue of concern to me and to others in the section, namely greater participation in identifying outstanding teachers at the K-12 level.  I am prompted to make comments because out of 8 states and 11 listed state representatives, we only had 3 state OEST’s and only 2 of those submitted complete packets for consideration as regional OEST winners.

            I have noticed that this is a trend that has been taking place in our region for several years now and I am concerned.  I recognize that we are all very busy and have plates overflowing with work; I have the same problems.  What truly concerns me, and hopefully you will see this as well, is that we may be missing perhaps one of the best recruiting opportunities we have for the geosciences.  At a time when college enrollments are shifting and new venues for higher education are developing (e.g., non-traditional degrees, on-line curricula and programs), the geosciences are still not increasing numbers like our sister sciences are.  The primary reason for this is that lack of exposure to geology and geology related courses at the middle and high school levels.  Most students get to college without an idea of what we have to offer and get little exposure to our science until later in the college careers, often after committing to other majors, and only as “last minute science requirements for a degree”.  How often have you heard “…if only I had known about geology earlier, I might have majored….”? 

To echo this lament I refer you to two well-written summaries of this problem:

Holbrook, J. 1997. Career potential in the Sciences, Geology in the High Schools, and Why Would Anyone Major in Geology Anyway: Palaios, 12(6):503-504.

Van Norden, W. 2002. Problems in Geology Education: Our High Schools are the Weakest Link: Palaios, 17(1):1-2.

Read them, use them, share them with teachers wanting to increase geoscience in their schools.  They make strong justification for teacher development courses, in-service programs, grant writing, etc.

Cultivating Middle and High School teachers, through encouragement and rewards in the geosciences, is vital to identifying potential geoscientists of the future, at a time early enough in their educational careers that will allow them to enter our field.  Because the “educational system” has evolved such that geology is not a part of secondary school curricula directly, except in some exceptions, we need to identify, encourage, publicize, and recruit teachers to be our advocates. 

For us to accomplish this, each state needs to be consistently and relentlessly proactive in this regard.  On a similar note, most of you received an invitation for a “meeting of the minds” to take place in November in Boone, NC, hosted by Appalachian State.  Don Byerly is working on a similar initiative for our section to bring together each state in an effort to find ways to reach down to the secondary level and make a presence.  You will be hearing more about that from him soon.  I strongly encourage you to place priority on NAGT activities as a way to “get the word out” and consider participating in these upcoming venues.

Strong presence in K-12 is a recruiting venture.  It behooves each of us to find those good teachers who can then serve as our advocates in K-12.  One very good way of doing this, visibly and effectively, is by nominating teachers for OEST awards in your state.  While this year’s cycle has essentially ended, it is not too late to begin the process for next year.  June will be here all too soon!

Michael Gibson


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