Institute For Teachers To Transform Earth Science Education
By Beth Potier, Media Relations
July 25, 2007
Climate change, satellite imaging, geographic information system technology:
the Earth is changing, along with the technology to study it. A new program
at UNH seeks to ensure that middle and high school teachers are keeping
up by participating in a two-week institute here July 23 through Aug. 3.
Funded by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Transforming
Earth System Science Education (TESSE) brings together 40 current and future
teachers with faculty expertise from UNH and partner universities Pennsylvania
State University, Dillard University in New Orleans, and Elizabeth City
State University in North Carolina.
“There are a lot of people teaching Earth science at the middle
and high school levels who don’t have strong backgrounds in Earth
science,” says Karen Graham, professor of mathematics and director
of UNH’s Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering
Education, which received the grant. “This is an opportunity for
them to update their content, to broaden their understanding of Earth science,
and to become more of an Earth systems scientist.”
Graham adds that the field of Earth science is changing from a “just
rocks” perspective to one of the Earth as a system, and new science
standards in schools are reflecting this change.
During the two-week institute, participants – who hail from the
regions near the four partner universities – will explore climate
change, weathering and erosion, volcanoes, plate tectonics, weather forecasting,
and oceans. The UNH-based labs, lectures and discussions will be complemented
with field trips to the Mt. Washington Observatory (July 27) and a science
cruise on the Great Bay Estuary (Aug. 1).
In addition to the two-week summer institute, which will rotate among
the partner universities in subsequent years, the NSF grant will create
year-round scientist-in-residence programs for current and incoming teachers.
Students from each of the partner institutions will serve as scientists-in-residence
in the classrooms of summer institute participant-teachers.
This component of the TESSE program builds on the successes of an existing
Leitzel Center NSF-funded program, Partnership for Research Opportunities
to Benefit Education (PROBE).The TESSE grant, which is over three years,
draws on resources of the Leitzel Center and co-investigators from UNH’s
department of earth sciences, department of education and the Institute
for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space.
“We are really excited by the opportunity to strengthen links between
universities and K-12 education through summer activities and the year-long
classroom partnership between graduate students and teachers,” says
Julie Bryce, assistant professor of geochemistry and co-director of the
TESSE program. “I have been fortunate to work with Melissa Smith,
a current PROBE graduate student fellow who will lead the first group of
graduate fellows in the TESSE program. Melissa has been highly effective
in gathering information on the expertise and strong research programs
at UNH and taking activities based on these programs into high school classrooms.”
While the program is aimed at teachers, Graham notes that ultimately,
students benefit. “The Earth is where we live. For students to be
informed citizens, they need information to better understand things like
global warming,” she says.
To learn more about TESSE, go to http://www.leitzelcenter.unh.edu/geo-teach/index.html.