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

Alabama (submitted by David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Douglas W. Haywick, Andrew K. Rindsberg, Yvonne Massey, Nick Matzke, Bob Meintzer)

Alabama once again failed to nominate a science teacher for the 2003 OEST teaching award. This is becoming an all too familiar trend, not only for our state, but for many others in the southeast. In order to better promote the award, several geologists in Alabama are attempting to establish a geology science teachers support network. The network would provide contacts for science teachers who might feel that they are “in over their heads” as far as the Earth sciences curriculum is concerned.

Alabama public schools are currently revisiting the Science Course-of-Study with the intention of better satisfying federal No-Child-Left-Behind guidelines, but it is unlikely that this will see major improvements to the Earth & space science requirement for high schools. The state COS committee is usually heavily loaded with biology teachers and Earth science education is not really a priority. Under the current COS, the last Earth science material is taught in 7th grade except for fossils which are listed as part of the life sciences context. Rewriting will also bring about the discussion of evolution and the general lack of understanding of what a theory really is (the sticker issue again). It should be noted that the concept of an old Earth was also dropped from Alabama science curricula. No new funds have been earmarked for science instruction in Alabama schools, so instruction is still predominantly 'worksheet-based'. However, a few more schools are using inquiry-based courses.

Two antievolution bills, each designated the "Academic Freedom Act," have recently been introduced in the Alabama legislature (as House Bill 391 on February 12 and Senate Bill 336 on February 17). The House bill has 31 co-sponsors (out of 105 House members) and the Senate bill has 10 co-sponsors (out of 35 senators), so they already have substantial support. The two bills have very similar, but not identical, wording. The last statewide antievolution issue in Alabama was the textbook disclaimer (this required that high school biology text books in Alabama be labeled with a sticker stating that “evolution was just a theory”). Several groups opposed to this new threat to science education are working with their members to fight the proposed legislation. Each bill gives teachers and instructors at public educational institutions from kindergarten to university the "affirmative right and freedom to present scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative theories or points of view on the subject of biological or physical origins." The bills are framed as an academic freedom issue, although it is clear that current protections on speech and academic freedom cover origins along with all other topics. The actual purpose of the bills seems to be allowing and encouraging the teaching of creationism in public schools. The lead sponsor of SB336, Sen. Wendell Mitchell, is quoted in the February 18 Montgomery Advertiser as saying "This bill will level the playing field because it allows a teacher to bring forward the biblical creation story of humankind." The bill would also provide a student the right "to a particular position on biological or physical origins, so long as he or she demonstrates acceptable understanding of course material." Section 5 of the bill stipulates that the "rights and privileges contained in this act do not apply unless the subject of biological or physical origins is raised in the context of approved curricula material.”

The financial situation in Alabama has improved somewhat from last year, but K-12 and higher education institutions are still waiting with bated breath to see if the axe will cut as deeply as was predicted last year. With that in mind, dozens of college and university faculty, staff and students traveled to Montgomery in late February to participate in Higher Education Day. Governor Riley, Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley, Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, and Speaker of the House Seth Hammett all apparently pledged support for higher education, but we will see what happens as the year progresses.

We are attempting to establish an information network to highlight geoscience education activities at Alabama’s universities, but to date, our information is limited. The Earth Sciences Club at the University of South Alabama is producing a series of rock kits for free distribution to area public schools. The kits will contain approximately 40 hand-sized specimens of important state rocks as well as an information key. The club is currently seeking funding to purchase boxes for the kits. It’s Science Olympiad time again and the University of South Alabama will be hosting the regional middle school and high school events in early March. Among the many activities to be held are events featuring mapping exercises, fossils and Earth processes.

The Geological Survey of Alabama's Education Committee continues its donation program for public schools in Alabama. The program is simple: Librarians request the book, “Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks”, on school stationery, and the Committee relays the request to the author-publisher, Jim Lacefield, who mails the books directly to the school libraries and sends the survey an invoice. This effective program takes little time and reaches a large number of students. Other significant educational activities conducted by the Geological Survey include an Earth Science Day Event that was held at Westlawn middle school in recognition of Earth Science Week, and the Job Shadowing Experience in recognition of National Groundhog Job Shadowing Day. Over 500 students, including students in special education classes, who attended school on the day that the Earth Science Event was held had an opportunity to hear a presentation and participate in a hands-on-activity pertaining to some aspect of the earth sciences. Presentations included biomonitoring, geohazards, fossil fuels, topographic mapping, fossil dig, and water quality monitoring.

The Alabama Paleontological Society received a blow when one of its most active members, Steve Minkin of Anniston, Alabama, died from injuries due to a fall (February 20). The APS is continuing its effort to document the extraordinary Union Chapel tracksite in a monograph, and nearly all the manuscripts are in hand. However, the effort to preserve the site as a state or federal preserve failed in February and the mine is now scheduled to be reclaimed. The effort to preserve part of the Wetumpka Astrobleme as a public park is (we hope) still underway.

Alabama will be well represented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Southeastern Section of the Geological Society of America in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. Geoeducation presentations include one by Andrew K. Rindsberg and David C. Kopaska-Merkel, who will present a talk on "Inexpensive paleontological workshops for teachers".

Florida (Submitted by Jon Bryan)
Current Resources on Florida Geology and Paleontology
Florida has not had much representation in the SENAGT newsletter, due entirely to the negligence of the Florida representative! In an effort to begin to remedy this situation, I would like to begin by refreshing your memory on some general resources to the geology of the state, and try to encourage some interest in research problems in Florida geology. As with any state, the geologic literature on Florida is vast. But the current point of entry to the geology and paleontology of the Sunshine State remains the 1997 compilation by Tony Randazzo and Douglas Jones, 1997, The Geology of Florida (University Press of Florida). Also, the new 1:750,000 scale geologic map of the state by Thomas Scott and others, Geologic Map of the State of Florida (2001, Florida Geological Survey) should be on the wall of every geology lab in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Refinements on the near-surface geology of Florida are published annually in the continuing STATEMAP series, which has been mapping 1:100,000 quads across the state since 1994. As with any mapping project, the STATEMAP series are revealing many exciting research questions, including various stratigraphic and paleontologic problems, origin of diagenetic (viz., dolomitization) patterns in Oligocene carbonates, and problems in Neogene geomorphology. The maps, text, cross-sections, and digital images present some of these possibilities. Recent maps (see below) cover most of the Florida Panhandle. Mapping of the Gainesville 1:100,000 quad is in progress (

Green, RC, Evans, WL III, Bryan, JR, & Paul, DT, 2003, Surficial and bedrock geology of the eastern portion of the U.S.G.S. 1:100,000 scale Marianna, Quadrangle, Northwestern Florida. Florida Geological Survey Open File Map Series No. 92.

Green, RC, Evans, WL III, Bryan, JR, Paul, DT, Gaboardi, MM, 2002, Surficial and bedrock geology of the western portion of the U.S.G.S. 1:100,000 scale Marianna, Quadrangle, Northwestern Florida. Florida Geological Survey Open File Map Series No. 91.

Green, RC, Evans, WL III, Bryan, JR, Paul, D, Scott, TM, Campbell, KM, and Gaboardi, MM, 2001, Surficial and bedrock geology of the southern portion of the U.S.G.S. 1;100,000 scale Crestview Quadrangle, Northwestern Florida. Florida Geological Survey Open File Map Series No. 90.

Means, GH, Green, RC, Bryan, JR, Scott, TM, Campbell, KM, Gaboardi, MM, and Robertson, JD, 2000, Surficial and bedrock geology of the northern portion of the U.S.G.S. 1;100,000 scale Crestview Quadrangle, Northwestern Florida. Florida Geological Survey Open File Map Series No. 89.

The vertebrate paleontology of the state was recently summarized in Richard Hurlburt’s wonderful book, The Fossil Vertebrates of Florida (2001, University Press of Florida). In addition, the Florida Paleontological Society continues to publish Florida Fossil Invertebrates—a series of short papers summarizing major taxa. To date, three volumes on Cenozoic echinoids have been published. There are two volumes in preparation on decapod crustaceans, and two volumes on larger foraminifera. The molluscs will be a major undertaking. The intent is to eventually compile these papers into a book, thus completing the “trilogy”—Geology of Florida, Fossil Vertebrates of Florida, and Fossil Invertebrates of Florida.

And finally, while it is a bit premature, be informed that The Roadside Geology of Florida (Mountain Press) is very much in progress, with completion expected in the next two years.

Some Earth Science Education News in Florida
***In the spring of 2003, the NSF-funded Florida Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (FCOSEE) initiative was launched, with an introductory conference in Tallahassee. The program is headquartered at the University of South Florida, with partnerships between Florida A & M University and the University of Miami. The purpose of the FCOSEE is to promote ocean science competencies in GK-16 by integrating research with education and outreach in the state. Seven COSEE centers have been established to date nationwide. The stated mission of the FCOSEE is to serve as a source of ocean science information, an active agent for development, distribution, and promotion of products, and a provider of services to educators, scientists, news media and the public. Initial programs include the development of an ocean science concept-driven interactive curriculum for post-secondary non-science majors, and a learning technology model for delivery of all COSEE components nested within a web portal (

***This appears to be a first. Starting in the Fall of 2004, the University of West Florida (Pensacola) will offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Oceanography—entirely online! This program was developed specifically in response to a request from the U.S. Navy to UWF. The Navy claims it has a total of 100,000 potential students afloat and stationed at land bases. Distance learning formats are the only viable educational option for many naval personnel. A variety of courses will eventually be offered online, included geological oceanography, coastal and marine environments, coastal morphology and processes, global biogeochemical cycles, etc. (

Upcoming Events 2004
May 20-23: 2004 Paleofest—A Celebration of Florida Paleontology, to be held at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville. The Paleofest gatherings that were held in 1996 and 1998 were enormously successful events where amateurs and professionals could gather for a couple of days of talks, fieldtrips, and social events. The 2004 Paleofest is especially anticipated because it will occasion the opening of a new exhibit at the museum, The Hall of Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land. Paleofest is a benefit for members of the Florida Museum of Natural History and Florida Paleontological Society.

May 28-31: National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section, and the Florida Geological Survey—The Science of Cave Diving. Paramount Resort Hotel, Gainesville. Talks and workshops on hydrogeology, karst, cooperation between divers and researchers, education, etc. (

June 18-22: National Marine Educators Association Annual Meeting, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg (www.

October 14-16: Florida Association of Science Teachers (F.A.S.T.) Annual Meeting, Orlando (

Georgia (submitted by Nancy Huebner)

Louisiana (no information submitted)

Mississippi (no information submitted)

North Carolina (no information submitted)

South Carolina (submitted by John Wagner)
Because of the recent dispersal of earth science curriculum standards throughout grades 6-8 (as opposed to the previous full 8th grade year devoted exclusively to earth science), it has become
harder and harder to identify teachers who refer to themselves as "earth-science teachers". Many middle school teachers want and need more earth science training and earth science related hands-on
classroom materials, but since they also have to teach standards in physical and life science, they tend to identify what they do as "integrated science". Of course there are plusses and minuses to this trend but the biggest danger is that the earth sciences will lose their identity completely.

To try and bolster the presence and visibility of earth science throughout South Carolina, several NAGT members at state colleges and universities have worked for many years to build and sustain a special statewide organization for earth science teachers. SCESTA (South Carolina Earth Science Teachers Association) was founded in 1984 and remains the primary vehicle for earth science awareness throughout the K-12 community. NESTA members have played an important role in sustaining this organization as well. Each year, at the convention of the South Carolina Science Council, SCESTA
members present workshops, field trips, lesson demonstrations, share-a-thons, and other sessions that draw big crowds, including many teachers who don't call themselves earth science teachers at
all, but recognize that they need to include more earth science in their classrooms to adequately meet state standards. SCESTA publishes a newsletter four times a year and maintains an e-mail listserve (thanks to the involvement of two NAGT members at Clemson University). Other NAGT and NESTA members have assisted by leading Spring field trips and other special workshops. In return, SCESTA helps publicize the OEST program and assists in recognizing state winners. SCESTA is an important vehicle througb which NAGT can effectively reach and affect the teaching of earth science in the
K-12 realm in South Carolina.

NAGT members have also been active in several inter-agency programs of benefit to K-12 science teachers. They have assisted the South Carolina State Park Service in developing its teacher education
program, called "Discover Carolina" that will introduce students and teachers to South Carolina's many habitats through visits to state parks. This program partners with the SC MAPS, SE MAPS, and SC LIFE curriculum projects at Clemson University to teach topics in natural history, geology, biology and ecology for grades 5 - 8. In addition to activities at the parks, a summer course for teachers is offered
through Clemson University to prepare teachers to utilize the Discover Carolina and related SC MAPS and SC LIFE activities. This year's course runs from July 12th through July 23rd. For more information on each of these programs, visit the websites at,, and

Tennessee (submitted by Michael A. Gibson)

Dual Credit Geology. Michael Gibson at University of Tennessee at Martin has been successful in instituting Dual Credit Physical Geology and Dual Credit History of the Earth in two local high schools this year (Westview HS & Obion Central HS). We are in the processes of negotiating with two other schools (South Fulton HS and Fulton HS, KY) to place Dual Credit in their schools in the near future. Dual Credit geology courses are the same course content and schedule as the regular University offering and are taught by University personnel. The courses include weekly laboratories and field trips (see attached picture). The courses serve as science electives for the high school students, who receive a weighted course grade for their high school transcripts and a separate college grade. Students are generally allowed up to 12 hours of dual credit courses to be taken during the junior and senior years. These courses allow advanced high schoolers the opportunity to begin their college careers and get some prerequisites out of the way early. Additionally dual credit courses expose the high school students to college expectations and programs at the institutions offering the courses. The colleges benefit getting geology into the high school curriculum, recruiting for their colleges, and FTE’s attributed to their programs.

Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic Program Regional Workshop (April 30-May 1, 2004 at Vanderbilt University with a follow-up field trip to Coon Creek Science Center June 4-5, 2004). Tina King (Mount Juliet Elementary School) & Dr. Sam Bowser (NSF Arctic Program & Wadsworth Center, Albany, NY), along with Drs. Molly Miller & (Vanderbilt University) and Michael A. Gibson (UT Martin) will be offering a weekend workshop for 30 participants for teachers wanted to prepare for aspects related to the Gateway Biology testing. The workshop focuses on foraminifera (plankton) from the Antarctic and fossil forams from West Tennessee. Teachers will be given instruction on the biology of the organisms, microscope use, and field collection. Each teacher will receive classroom samples of modern and ancient forams for their students as well as several classroom activities to implement. For more information or to register, contact Tina King (

UT Martin will be offering two on-line Earth System Science courses this coming fall (see attachments). Earth Systems for Middle School teachers is in its 2nd year of offering. We will be offering a high school course for the 1st time. Some money is available to help students pay for tuition.

UT Martin is again offering its Geology, Geography, and Archaeology of Belize travel study program. Email Michael Gibson ( for information.

Michael A. Gibson was the Tennessee Science Teachers Association Science Teacher of the Year for Higher Education in 2003.
Both were presented their awards at the 2003 TSTA annual meeting, held in Nashville, TN in November.

TEST News – TEST, with funding from the Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society and the Middle Tennessee Rock and Mineral Collectors, ran several workshops for teachers at the TSTA meeting in Nashville this past November. Over 150 “Tennessee Fossil Boxes” were assembled, including curricula, and disseminated to teachers attending the conference. This marks the 5th Rock Box series TEST has produced. The 2004 version has been identified and will focus on Tennessee’s rock and mineral resources.

A two-day program for Earth Science Week at the Coon Creek Science Center for area school systems (McNairy, Chester, Hardin counties), scheduled for Oct 14 – 15, 2004. For more information contact Michael Gibson (; 731-587-7435).

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