National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Southeastern Section Newsletter
Email Edition - Summer / Fall 2003
     
Regional News: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

Alabama (submitted by Douglas W. Haywick, Robert Meintzer, and Andrew Rindsberg)
The major political news out of Alabama at this time is the "big vote" by Alabama residents on a comprehensive tax reform package proposed by Governor Riley. There is much at stake for education in this vote. If the reform package is passed, it will increase funding for education, as well as many other important services.

... well let's just say that Alabama is already at the bottom of the list as far as education is concerned in the United States and that we can't go much further without cutting out programs from all levels of education. The battle cry of the Yes vote is "Let's do the right thing". No voters have retained the oldie-but-goodies "We're taxed enough" and "No more new taxes". As it turns out, most people would pay less in taxes with the reform package, but that message has been ignored or missed by the No side. It is gratifying to see that most educators in Alabama are attempting to spread the message that tax reform is necessary for future generations in our state. September 9th will reveal if the majority of state residents agree. [Editor's note: On September 9, Alabama residents voted down the proposed tax reforms.]

Spain High School in Hoover, Alabama, has introduced Earth Science into its curriculum. Schools using NSF-supported curriculum materials in grades K-5 under LASER (Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform) from National Science Resource Center (NSRC) cover grade appropriate earth & space materials through inquiry. Much of North Alabama is receiving LASER-based curricula due to federal grant money received; efforts are underway elsewhere. Plans to cover 6-8 are also underway. Alabama has instituted Alabama Mathematics, Science, and Techonology Initiative which goes hand-in-hand with LASER efforts towards implementing NSF-supported curriculum materials in schools (K-8). AL LASER (the regional organization) is considering expanding from K-8 to K-12. Currently, earth science materials under AMSTI include the STC, STC/MS, FOSS, and INSIGHTS books and kits. Unforunately, AGI's exemplary materials (Investigating Earth Systems for middle schools and EarthComm for high schools) published by Its-About-Time have not been included in either program as AGI and Its-About-Time have not become LASER sponsors.

The State adopted a revised course-of-study for science in 2001 patterned after the national standards, but much weaker overall. In general, the state course-of-study (COS) takes the eight national content standards and dilutes them into four (the three life science, earth & space science, and physical science standards, plus lumping the other five into a general group); removes earth & space science as a requirement in high school and moves some high school material (space science) into 8th grade; puts the study of fossils under life science in 8th grade), etc. By the state standards, an Alabamian receives all their earth science (except fossils) by the end of 7th grade! The state COS does indirectly direct teaching using the inquiry-method, but few teachers are trained in inquiry and few universities offer education students the opportunity to learn inquiry when they take earth science courses. Around the same time as the Alabama COS was written, a graduation examination was put into place that has NO earth and space science content, although it leans heavily on knowledge gained in grades 6-9.

The Alabama Geological Society held its 39th annual field trip on December 5-7, 2002, "The Geology, Mining Methods, and Processing of Selected Industrial Minerals in Northeastern Alabama", led by Robert S. Fousek. The guidebook is available from the Society: http://www.alags.org/index. The Society also held a field seminar on February 22, "Geology and Operations at National Cement Company's Ragland Quarry".

On May 2-4, the Geological Survey of Alabama, Alabama Museum of Natural History, and Alabama Paleontological Society joined forces to host a Workshop on Permo-Carboniferous Ichnology in Tuscaloosa. The meeting focused on the Union Chapel Mine, which has yielded more than 1600 specimens of Pennsylvanian trackways since its discovery in 1999.

FIELDTRIPS!
The Alabama Geological Society's 40th annual field trip will be held on "Post-Knox, Pre-Pottsville Stratigraqphy of the Helena Thrust Sheet and Coosa Deformed Belt in St. Clair County, Alabama." Denny Bearce, Ed Osborne, and Dan Irvin will lead this trip on December 4-6, 2003. For information, please contact Ed Osborne (eosborne@gsa.state.al.us).

The Geological Survey of Alabama's Education Committee will offer a repeat of their popular one-day field and lab seminar, "Cretaceous of West-Central Alabama: A Hands-on Fossil Workshop for Teachers" at the University of West Alabama, Livingston. Instructors will include Andrew Rindsberg, Charles C. Smith, and Richard Thurn. Note that there are still some vacant slots available! If you missed our first four workshops, you have another chance to visit some of Alabama’s most famous fossil collecting localities! Contact Andrew Rindsberg for information (arindsberg@gsa.state.al.us).

Where: University of West Alabama in Livingston and vicinity.
When: Tuesday, October 21, 2003, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Cost: $10 (preregistration required)
You will receive: A certificate of participation indicating that you earned 8 contact hours of C.E.U. in-service credit, a field guidebook, the new book Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks (a $25 value), a geologic map of Alabama, fact sheets on Alabama fossils, a selection of fossils from other parts of the state, and a fossil kit you will make as part of the workshop.
Who Should Attend: In-service and pre-service science teachers who will be teaching earth science or other science courses with earth-science components.


Workshop Summary
Sign up for a one-day workshop in paleontology (the study of fossils)! The workshop is geared for elementary school, middle school, and high school science teachers (both in-service and pre-service), and has four objectives:
• To familiarize participants with the study of fossils and field geology, so that they will be more comfortable imparting this information to their students.
• To provide information about well-documented sites that can be visited by classes, or used to provide material for classes.
• To provide the teachers an opportunity to develop fossil kits, under supervision by experienced geologists, for classroom use. All objectives will further the goal of integrating real earth science into the school curriculum. Workshop participants will be better able to recommend meaningful science-fair projects in earth science and to assist with them.
• To give participants a copy of, and an introduction to, a major new resource for teaching about the geology and geologic history of Alabama, the book "Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks."

This course will provide material useful for, or training in, ACOSS Processes and Applications in all grades, the Geology and Earth & Space Science electives at the high-school level, concepts in the high-school biology core, and concepts in the life-science strand at all other grade levels. Children love collecting fossils; field trips are excellent attention-grabbers and often seem like Easter-egg hunts. Alabama is one of the best places in the world for fossil collecting. In an area the size of England, Alabama has well-preserved fossils of almost every age. It is no exaggeration to say that amateur and professional paleontologists come from all over the world to collect fossils in Alabama.

The workshop will follow the format of the highly successful field workshops that were held in 1997 and 1998 in the same area. The workshop will be in three parts. The first part will be spent at the University of West Alabama in Livingston, where the principles of field study in earth science will be introduced. The emphasis will be on the basics: keeping a field notebook, reading geologic and topographic maps, and proper collection and labeling of samples. Laws regarding fossil collecting will be discussed. The second part of the workshop will be spent at two excellent outcrops of fossiliferous Cretaceous marine strata near Livingston. The outcrops contain diverse marine fossils, including oysters, other bivalves, snails, bryozoa, worm tubes, and shark teeth. If very lucky, someone might find bone(s) of ancient sea turtles or bone(s)/teeth of a large, nasty mosasaur (an extinct marine reptile). The third part of the workshop will take place at the University of West Alabama. Participants and project leaders will identify and label fossils that were collected that morning, developing fossil kits that the teachers will take back to their schools.

Schedule
8-9 am: Registration and Orientation (at the University of West Alabama, Livingston, AL)
9-12 noon: Field trip to Cretaceous of west Alabama, Sumter County
12-1 pm: Sack Lunch (not provided)
1-4 pm: Curriculum development workshop (at UWA, Livingston, AL)


Other Alabama new items:
New geoscience and geoscience education publications include:

  • The third edition of David T. King's "Alabama Dinosaurs", a paperback of 148 pages for readers of age 15 and higher, has been published: http://www.aubookstore.com
  • The Geological Survey of Alabama has published 8 geologic maps so far in its Quadrangle Series, in the greater Birmingham metropolitan area: http://www.gsa.state.al.us/

New earth science web resources from Alabama for geoscience teachers:

  • The U.S. Geological Survey recently added citations to hundreds of Alabama maps to its database of geological maps: http://ncgmp.usgs.gov/ngmdbproject/
  • The University of Alabama Cartography Laboratory has hundreds of actual maps posted on its website: http://alabamamaps.ua.edu/
  • David T. King (Auburn University) is spearheading an attempt to preserve at least part of the Wetumpka Astrobleme, the only one known in the state, as a park. The astrobleme is north of Montgomery and is rapidly undergoing development. See http://www.auburn.edu/academic/science_math/geology/docs/wetumpka/.
  • Prescott Atkinson (University of Alabama at Birmingham) is trying to preserve another piece of Alabama geology, the Union Chapel Mine. Since its discovery three years ago, the site has become known as the world's most prolific Carboniferous tracksite. The mine is currently scheduled for reclamation beginning August 31. See http://bama.ua.edu/~rbuta/monograph/. Also, see story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (click here).


Florida (no information submitted)

Georgia (submitted by Pamela Gore and Nancy Huebner)
State and local budgets were deeply cut this school year, and that impacted all science education. Looks like budgets will be cut again next year.

The DeKalb County Schools System (serving part of Metro Atlanta) is going to open an environmental education theme school in 2005. It will be located near Mount Arabia, a large gneiss outcrop in the southwest part of the county. A major component of the curriculum will focus on the geology of the area.

The Weinman Mineral Museum in Cartersville, Georgia, will have a special exhibit on "The Art of Minerals". The exhibit will be open October 21, 2003 through January 11, 2004.

Georgia's earth science curriculum has not changed much from last year. We are still waiting on the new state K-12 science objectives that were supposed to be ready this fall. Earth Science is still taught in the 8th grade, but might be moved to the 6th if/when the new state standards are issued next year. Very few schools in the state offer Earth Science courses at the high school level. The state is moving toward end of course testing and away from a comprehensive graduation test... end of course tests will be piloted this fall and will count as 20% of the final grade this spring. I think it is a sign of the states commitment to Earth Science education that there are no plans to develop an end of course test for High School Earth Science courses.

Here is the web site for the GA Geologic Society: http://www.westga.edu/~ggsweb/ggs.html.
Our Annual Meeting is in October, and always includes interesting field trips.

For more Georgia geoscience information online: http://www.gpc.peachnet.edu/~pgore/gore.htm.

Louisiana (no information submitted)

Mississippi (no information submitted)

North Carolina (submitted by Mary Watson and Debbie Mount)
The Forsyth Gem and Mineral Club will host its 32nd Annual Gem, Mineral, Jewelry Show and Sale at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds Education Building. Displays of fluorite will highlight the show's theme of "Fluorite Minerals." Displays provided from private collectors, museums, and mining industries located in the state. The show offers a great educational opportunity for students and adults of all ages. Where else can one pan for gold, watch geodes be cut in half, see fluorescent minerals and shop for jewelry, minerals, fossils, and meteorites at the same time?

North Carolina is currently revising its K12 science curriculum. The goal for the revision is to increase alignment with national standards and assessments, improve clarity and vertical alignment, and increase the focus on important concepts and doing science. Earth and Environmental sciences are incorporated into the K-8 curriculum at every grade level and an Earth Environmental science course is now a high school graduation requirement. The revision process involves teachers, University educators, scientists, representatives of the business community, parents, and members of the public. Current drafts of the updated curriculum and contact information for the science team at the Department of Public Instruction can be viewed by going to http://www.ncpublicschools.org/curriculum/science/index.html and following the links to the proposed revisions. Comments, support and suggestions are welcome. For more information, contact: Dr. Eleanor Enthoven Hasse (eehasse@dpi.state.nc.us), Science Consultant, Mathematics and Science Section, NC Dept Public Instruction, 6352 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-6352; tele - (919) 807-3845; fax - (919) 807-3823.

Debbie Michael, an astronomy and earth/environmental science teacher at East Lincoln High School broughtcurrent events into her science classroom after returning from a trip to Seoul, South Korea. She participated in a global study program for invited educational policymakers to examine educational policies and best practices in South Korea. She was awarded a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund that paid for her travel expenses to Seoul. Michael was one of 21 people, including lawmakers, educators and other professionals who participated in the trip. She visited middle school and high school science classes and observed Korean teachers and students. The group chose to visit South Korea because of its high international scores on math and science as stated in the TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study) report.

Grier Simmons, a ninth grade student at East Lincoln High School in Denver, NC, was the national winner in the Earth Science Week essay contest for 2000. The theme was "Water is All Around You" and his winning essay was entitled "Drizzle's Day".Grier followed a day in the life of a water molecule and was very creative with his essay. Grier was awarded a monetary prize and his essay was published in Geotimes in the Jan. 2003 issue. Grier was a student in Debbie Michael's Earth/Environmental science class. She had students write essays on the topic for Earth Science week as a requirement for a writing across the curriculum assignment. She encouraged students to submit their essays for the contest.

Earth/Environmental students also became more aware of seismic activity around the world as they watched their seismograph record earthquakes. Mrs. Michael was awarded a seismograph from IRIS after attending a workshop on earthquakes at NSTA. The students would plot the earthquakes on a world map and were amazed at all the activity they were able to pick up from their school.

Students were also actively involved in gathering GLOBE data, analyzing water quality in the creek behind the school, and using technology to create various projects.

Debbie Michael has now transferred to North Lincoln High School. This is a new high school in Lincoln County and she is working on establishing the GLOBE program and has a wetland and creek to explore with her students.

 

The 35th Annual NC Science Teachers Association Conference will be held at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, NC on November 13-14, 2003.

The following are highlights of the 2002 conference:

  • Ms. Marie McKay of Ashbrook High School, Gastonia, NC received the 2002 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher of the Year.
  • Ms. Kay McLeod, Colburn Gem & Mineral Museum received the 2002 Outstanding Earth Science educator in a non-traditional setting award.

The NC Geologic community sponsors the "Great Rock Give Away" every other year at NCSTA.
Volunteers include: industry, academia, educators, state and federal agencies, consultants and school teachers. The North Carolina survey distributes gratis to teachers more than 2500 maps, posters, wall charts, booklets, videos and educational kits for their classroom use.

Dr. Bob Bakker was the 2002 NCSTA Keynote speaker and he spent two days mentoring our earth science teachers at the conference.

The Carolinas Geological Society annual field trip will be held November 14, 15, 16.
The field trip title is "Surficial geology and the shallow aquifer system of the middle Coastal Plain, Little Contentnea Creek watershed, Neuse River Basin, North Carolina". Kathleen Farrell of the North Carolina Geological Survey will be the principal field trip leader. Educators and teachers are welcome to and commonly attend according to their area of interest. For further information contact duncan.heron@duke.edu.


South Carolina (submitted by John Wagner)
The status of earth science in South Carolina schools remains unchanged. All middle school grades are now supposed to cover a specific list of life, earth, and physical science topics each year, but most science teachers are holdovers from the days when eighth grade was earth science and seventh grade was life science. The result is that eighth grade still emphasizes earth science more than it is supposed to, and earth science topics are woefully under-represented in most seventh grade classrooms (the former life science teachers aren't prepared to handle earth science topics, so they don't).

A few high schools offer elective courses in geology, astronomy, or environmental science, but the surprisingly strong earth science standards for high school instruction are for the most part being ignored, and there is no end-of-course testing for earth science as there is for physical science and biology. The high school exit exam is first given in tenth grade and reportedly gives minimal coverage to earth science topics.

All South Carolina students will eventually be required to take a special end-of-year exam (called the PACT - Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test) in each major subject each year. This year, they are testing science in grades 5 and 7, eventually; science will be included in all grades. Recent budget cuts have given most science teachers larger class sizes and fewer resources, but they are still expected to show improvement in student test performance.

There are lots of professional development opportunities available to schools, but fewer in-service days to schedule them. The long-awaited middle school certification is very close to implementation. Once that policy is in place, principals will no longer be able to assign science classes to elementary certified teachers who have had perhaps only two semesters of science in college.

Several years ago, the National Science Foundation sponsored a geoscience curriculum development project entitled "SE MAPS" (Southeastern Maps and Aerial Photographic Systems). Directed by John Wagner at Clemson University, this initiative set up state development teams in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee to identify significant landforms and/or landscape areas in their states that were suitable for interdisciplinary study at the eighth or ninth grade level. State teams selected various cartographic products that would highlight the thematic focus of each site, provided background information about the site, and suggested a variety of student activities. Many members of the Southeastern Section of NAGT participated in this project. Some of the study areas were completed in draft form and the activities field tested in classrooms in Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Work with other study areas has not yet progressed that far. Funding ended before all submitted materials could be compiled into the final Teaching Manual, but the project staff at Clemson has continued to work slowly towards completing the task, with significant help from Mike Clark in Tennessee and a few others. Currently, Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 are available in draft form for review and comment (ultimately there will be ten chapters published). Anyone interested in field testing some of these activities or commenting on the narratives should contact John Wagner at Clemson University (864) 656-5024; jrwgnr@clemson.edu. Detailed information about SE MAPS also may be obtained from the project website (click here).

Tennessee (reported by Stan Dunagan and Michael A. Gibson)
This year the Tennessee Academy of Science (TAS) and Tennessee Science Teachers Association (TSTA) will be meeting jointly November 13-15 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs, Franklin, TN. Michael Gibson is serving as the chair of the Geology and Geography sections, and he is soliciting your participation in the meeting. This meeting is a great opportunity for you and your students to present research, even preliminary results. Presentation at this meeting does not preclude later presentation due to the regional nature of the meeting. TAS presentations are a perfect opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to practice formal presentations and an outlet for their research, especially those research aspects that may not be viewed as being of national level, but still contribute to our understanding of Tennessee issues. All student papers are automatically entered into competition for a “Best Student Paper Award”, which can enhance a student’s portfolio.

This is a joint meeting with the science educators of Tennessee – the largest single get together for this crowd. Thus, this is also your best opportunity to, at the same meeting, network with the teachers from across Tennessee who train and influence our prospective majors and course clients. Come see how they learn and teach their science and what they need to better represent your fields in their classrooms. Get to know them, and let them get to know you, so that you can foster pipelines from pre-college science programs to college programs.

There are some special programs this year as well. Thursday afternoon is a special symposium on Reelfoot Lake (to be compiled later into a special volume) and a special session on teaching evolution in TN.

The official deadline for titles has passed, but Michael has some slots open to fill the sessions. The final abstract deadline is October 1. Right now he needs titles and authors, but you may want to go ahead and submit the abstract. If you are interested, please email Michael (mgibson@utm.edu) and he can fax you the necessary forms.

Other Tennessee news items:

  • One of the major issue affecting Tennessee geoscience teachers centers around the No Child Left Behind legislation, specifically, how do middle school teachers demonstrate or remediate being “highly qualified”? Nearly all teacher training opportunities are aimed at this issue.
  • Geology has been offered as a Dual Credit course at two West Tennessee high schools (Westview H.S. in Martin and Obion Central H.S. in Troy) as science elective. This is the first time geology has been offered in West Tennessee as a dual credit course. Other schools have expressed an interest for future offering of geology.
  • TEST sessions have continued to expand at TSTA to the point where we offer approximately 6 sessions plus one pre-meeting workshop yearly. Funding for the workshop materials has increased (thanks to Middle TN Rock and Min Society, MAGS, and East TN Geological Society). The spring TEST meeting will include a field trip to the Gray Fossil Site; details are still being finalized.

Now in its fourth year, the 4th Annual Earth Science Fair at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville exposes middle and high school students to the earth and planetary sciences, subjects typically absent from the standard curriculum. There is no fee to participate, and students are exposed to a wide range of geology-related topics and activities. All students receive a bookmark containing the geologic time scale and teachers are provided with a package of educational materials to take back with them to their classrooms. Some of the activities also provide topic-specific materials and/or samples. This year's fair is October 16 and 17.

The Earth Science Fair has become increasingly popular with the region’s public and private schools. As a result, this year’s Fair has been expanded and extended to two event-packed mornings on Thursday, October 16, and Friday, October 17, 2003. Faculty, students, and others in the local Earth Science community will be volunteering their time and talent to present a variety of hands-on, minds-on activities. There are 16 topics scheduled for this year’s Fair including: remote sensing, gold panning, creating model impact craters, minerals in everyday life, the Moon, natural hazards and mineral resources of Tennessee, roving around Mars, soil and groundwater, the world of caves, a geologic time trail…laid out to scale, and more.

Since this year’s Earth Science Week theme is “Eyes on Planet Earth,” we plan to showcase remote-sensing activities related to the Earth’s geographic and geologic systems, as well as other planetary bodies. A new opportunity for teachers, interns, and home-schooling parents this year, is a two-hour workshop on the geology of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, led by Professor Emeritus Don Byerly.

The Fair is made possible through the generosity of University of Tennessee graduate students, faculty and staff, as well as by a number of individuals and professional organizations, governmental agencies, mining, geotechnical and environmental consulting companies operating in the East Tennessee region. The Fair’s website (http://web.ukt.edu/~geoclub/earthscifair) provides detailed information about the event and Earth Science Week, and allows on-line registration.

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Winter / Spring 2004 Newsletter Deadline: January 31, 2004. Please send news, items, questions, & answers to sdunagan@utm.edu