National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Southeastern Section Newsletter
Email Edition - Winter /Spring 2003
The President's Thoughts    

This is my last column as sectional President for SE NAGT.  At the Memphis GSA meeting in March, David Kopaska-Merkel will assume the roll of President.  I would like to take the opportunity to thank those that helped me in my tenure over the past two years.  Pam Gore, who has served in several capacities for NAGT, including President, has been a consummate Secretary/Treasurer and has been instrumental in the health of the section.  Stan Dunagan assumed the role of Newsletter Editor and has brought us into the Internet age.  David Kopaska-Merkel has participated in all events and faithfully completes his duties.  I thank all of you for making my job as President easier and enjoyable.  You are all outstanding educators!

I had an interesting conversation last weekend (last week in January) at the annual officer’s retreat for the Tennessee Earth Science Teachers (TEST).  I listened to Linda Jordan, the Tennessee State Science Consultant as she explained the mindset of K-12 education, grants, teacher development, and higher education’s role in this arena, at least for Tennessee.  My impression was that the same was true of other states, especially southeastern states.  It is important to us in higher education; because it is the K-12 pipeline that sustains us…they are our clienteles.  Jordan pointed out that the days of teachers going to workshops and training (that includes Earth Science and Geology) without generous support of grants and school systems are gone.  The altruistic, “knowledge for my classes sake” is not the primary driving force now.  Teachers will not use their own money to go to conferences, etc. as they used to.  When they do, they are there to get the information that will allow them to perform (and their students) on the assessments: “Gateway” tests, TCAP’s (and your own state version of this), Terra Nova, etc….these are the determining factors.  Keep in mind, and I do mean to emphasize this, that these tests are primarily seen as “biology” and allied tests, not Earth science tests. 

We have a great mission ahead of us…Earth Science parity!  Not just in word, but in deed.  Our colleges and universities must provide the stimulus for this by developing standards and acknowledging that advance (note my word here) Earth Science (perhaps better Earth Systems) and Geology should be developed and encouraged as a college entrance lab science.  We need assessment tests to validate them, AP programs, and most importantly we need to, at every turn, demonstrate the utility, pervasiveness, and usefulness of our discipline.

It is true that the National Standards emphasize the parity of Earth sciences, and that many state standards have Earth Sciences as major components….but ask yourself, or better yet, pick up the phone and ask the education department…how many of your education majors are going into Earth Science?  Then ask yourself two questions: why? And what can I do about that?

I wish you all best educational wishes and successful classrooms.  Thanks for the two years.

Michael Gibson


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