National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Southeastern Section Newsletter
Email Edition - Summer / Fall 2004
Regional News: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

Alabama (submitted by David C. Kopaska-Merkel)
In May, Andrew K. Rindsberg handed the leadership of the Geological Survey of Alabama Education Committee back to David C. Kopaska-Merkel, who was made quadriplegic in a car accident the previous year. David is using voice-recognition software and sheer determination to return to useful work. One of the Committee's main activities was to continue donating copies of 'Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks' to school libraries by arrangement with the publisher, Jim Lacefield. The committee also accepted donations of fossils from amateurs (chiefly Don Williams) to redistribute to schoolteachers. Fossils were distributed both to individual teachers and to people organizing workshops for teachers. The Geological Survey of Alabama also donated brochures, posters, and other publications to a variety of workshops for teachers held around the state. The Education Committee also raised $3000+ in its annual golf tournament. The committee ran a Fossil Dig at Tuscaloosa's CityFest, as it has done for many years.

An annual hands-on field workshop on paleontology for teachers was held last October in Livingston, hosted by Doug Wymer and Richard Thurn at the University of West Alabama. The Geological Survey of Alabama co-leads the workshop with the University of West Alabama. Each year, two or three dozen teachers, mostly from Alabama, participate. Nancy Huebner (Fernbank Museum of Natural History) attended and was so enthusiastic about it that she invited organizers to give a talk about it at a session on geologic education that she ran along with Chris Bean at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Section of the Geological Society of America. The workshop will be held once again in October of 2004.

Alabama is in the process of selecting science textbooks for use in the public schools. The state is also revising its science course of study (Draft document will be released and public comment period will be in October.) A volunteer group founded by Bob Collins, Alabama Citizens for Science Education (,, is monitoring both processes and participating where possible. This group consists of scientists, parents, and other interested parties. The group is affiliated with the National Center for Science Education, and is particularly interested in preserving accurate and comprehensive education about evolution in the public schools.

We still have a disclaimer in our textbooks, alleging that there is something peculiarly unviable about the theory of evolution, and during the last legislative session there was a pretty strong attempt to allow the teaching of creationism in public schools.

On a positive note, inquiry based science initiatives are warming their way into some Alabama public schools. In addition, there seem to be more professional development workshops for science teachers and those that do exist seem to be getting bigger or at least getting more attention in Alabama. This may be a reaction to declining funding for public education in the state, but it is still a very good thing.

Alabama NAGT will be sponsoring two workshops at this year’s Alabama Science Teachers Association meeting in October.

For the first time in a very long time Alabama this year had a state OEST winner, Hurd Finnegan, who teaches at Davidson high school in South Alabama. Hurd will receive his plaque, a cash award, and a book prize at the 2004 ASTA meeting in October.

We reviewed and commented on the latest version of the strategic plan.

Our plans for the future include trying to get more nominees for the OEST award, and expanding our presence at the ASTA meeting.

Dr. Andrew K. Rindsberg and members of Alabama Citizens for Science Education helped prepare this report.

Florida (no information submitted)

Georgia (no information submitted)

Louisiana (no information submitted)

Mississippi (no information submitted)

North Carolina (submitted by Randy Bechtel)
This is Randy Bechtel, the new education geologist for the North Carolina Geological Survey (NCGS). I came from the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences where I was in the Public Programs Section for five years and have been in museum public education for over 7 years. I will attempt to fill the shoes of my predecessor, Mary Watson, who has moved on to bigger and better challenges. I am now the NAGT representative for North Carolina. Education is one third of my position here at the NCGS. Field mapping and publications editor fill out the rest of my duties. I started June 21, 2004, and I am still learning what my duties and responsibilities include.

The NCGS will be taking a hiatus in 2004 in awarding the OEST Award. We have decided to reorganize the effort and establish a new timeline for the award in our state. Our new timeline will coincide with the regional SENAGT Awards. I plan to have more information to our teachers in the winter of 2005.

The NCGS is assisting Keenan Fellow Sam Fuerst, a teacher at Northern High School in Durham, in his project to develop a virtual geologic field trip of North Carolina. His two year fellowship started in the summer of 2004.

Educational venues the NCGS has, or will be, involved in include the North Carolina Science Teachers Association (NCSTA) Conference, Rock and Mineral Days at the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Earth/Environmental Science Institute (EESI).

The NCGS will have an exhibit and distribute NCGS and USGS materials to teachers at the NCSTA Conference November 11th and 12th. Also, at the conference, the North Carolina Aggregates Association will be giving away rock and mineral samples from 55 gallon drums. This has been a popular item at past conferences and teachers gobble up the samples like rock candy.

In July 2004, several staff members of the NCGS were invited to participate in the Earth/Environmental Science Institute (EESI). The EESI was open to 25 teachers from across the state to participate in this weeklong workshop. Subject areas included air quality, water quality, and geology. At the end of the workshop the teachers were required to create a short video of the week’s experiences as an exercise in video story telling. The NCGS participated by running a day long class on the geology of Morrow Mountain State Park. This included walking and driving field trips in the park to look at the geology and presenting hands-on activities at the park’s shelter. One of the hits of the presentation was a 3-D computer animation that flew over the geology of the park, circling the area and eventually “landing” on Morrow Mountain. We plan to have this on our website soon. A second day of geology found us at a local quarry where we discussed the resources and societal impacts of mining. Several of the NCGS staff stayed at the camp, where EESI was based, and assisted the teachers with any questions on the week’s geologic excursions. We have been invited to participate in future institutions and are looking forward to it.

The NCGS had an exhibit at the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences special event Rock and Mineral Days during the Labor Day weekend. Over 3,500 people attended the event and we fielded many questions ranging from careers in the geosciences to rock identification. We also showcased our computer 3-D flyover of the geology of Morrow Mountain State Park.

North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences has a great temporary exhibit on North Carolina rock and minerals called Treasure Unearthed. The exhibit runs through July 2005 and has discounts for school groups and students with proper identification. If you do visit the exhibit, you will see some incredible rocks and minerals from North Carolina that are on loan from an anonymous collector. Also, in the exhibit, is a re-creation of the historic Reed Gold Mine that you can walk through and an all-ages, hands-on lab area and classroom called “The Outcrop”. If you cannot visit, they have a great interactive section on their website in the Treasures Unearthed section.

The impact of Hurricane Frances caused many landslides in our mountains and we are bracing for Hurricane Ivan to take the same path. Pictures of some of the landslides are on our website under the “What’s New” section. Our website is also undergoing an update and reorganization. The NCGS is currently working with our state’s emergency management division to assist in responding to the public’s questions on landslide information and guidance on dealing with landslides. This is a new partnership for the NCGS and we are excited to be able to assist.

Thank You
Randy Bechtel
North Carolina Geological Survey
919-733-2423 extension 410

South Carolina (no information submitted)

Tennessee (submitted by Michael A. Gibson)
TEST has new website. The Tennessee Earth Science Teachers (TEST) has revamped its website and plans on additional expansions soon. The new URL:

Annual State Science Teachers Meeting. At the K-12 level in Tennessee, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) continues to drive outreach programs and funding, even at the university level. This year the Tennessee Science Teachers Association (TSTA) will be meeting in Nashville November 13-15 and the format for the meeting has been modified to include day-long intensive programs that are deeper in content, covering a narrower range of topics, for longer period than in previous years. State-wide teachers were polled last year to determine the subject areas they had greatest need in having workshops developed for and Earth Science ranked high. Consequently, the Tennessee Earth Science Teachers (TEST) developed its yearly activities with this in mind. This year TEST chose the topic of Tennessee’s Mineral, Industrial, and Fossil Fuel Resources as the vehicle. After identifying nearly 25 minerals, rocks, and other resources to include in the workshop, along with inquiry-based activities developed by the teachers, the organization assembled over 180 specimen kits that will be given to participants in several workshops. Drs. Don Byerly (UTK) and Michael Gibson (UTM) will lead the day-long workshops providing the content, while TEST educators will assist and help train teachers in activities related to the topic and the specimen kits. A web-page is being developed to serve as a resource for the workshop participants, as well as other teachers (

Earth Science Teacher Enhancement Grant Funded. The University of Tennessee at Martin has been funded through the Math and Science Partnership Program ( to provide middle school educators with in-depth content instruction over a 3-year period. Institutes for Middle Grade Science Education in West Tennessee (IMEGS) is a 3-year series of 2-week summer institutes, with supporting follow-up throughout the following year, offered through UT Martin through partnership with 11 middle school systems in Tennessee. A potential total of 108 teachers will receive instruction from 8 science faculty and 2 education faculty spanning Life Sciences (Biology), Earth and Planetary science (Geology and Astronomy), and Physical Science (Physics/Chemistry) designed to help teachers reach content proficiency in all of these areas. Participants can accrue up to 9 hours of graduate science credit and 6 hours of corresponding education graduate credit. Teachers will also participate in at least one follow-up content workshop at the annual TSTA meeting as part of the program and will receive Teaching Kits for their classrooms. Field and laboratory learning is stressed using facilities associated with the UT Martin campus, the Reelfoot Biological Station, and Coon Creek Science Center. Post institute instruction will include asynchronous on-line content delivery and intensive day-long sessions run in conjunction with the annual Tennessee Science Teachers Association annual meeting. Emphasis of IMEGS is increased content knowledge of teacher participants as demonstrated through teacher performance in the program and increased student achievement as measured by TCAP, among other indicators.

Tennessee NAGT OEST Winner – Ms. Tina King. The Outstanding Earth Science Educator for Tennessee for 2004 is Ms. Tina King (see story under OEST Winner), who was also the regional award recipient. Ms. King receives both of her awards at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Science Teachers Association in Nashville, November 14, 2004.

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