The State of Iowa adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2015. Earth Science was not previously a required course in the State curriculum, and Iowa high schools must now meet the challenge of achieving NGSS Earth Science proficiency objectives in a state with very few K-12 educators certified or endorsed in Earth Science. What few Iowa high schools do teach Earth Science typically present it as a 'remedial science' instead of as the integration and application of all of the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. The recent adoption of NGSS in the State, the critical need to train K-12 educators statewide in Earth Science, and the need to incorporate more rigor in the presentation of Earth Science provide an opportunity to reframe Earth Science education in Iowa as the capstone STEM discipline. Improving Earth Science education in the state has potential to significantly increase the exposure of students to Earth Science at an early stage and improve their awareness of the field as an interdisciplinary STEM discipline and potential career path. High school students who become interested in Earth Science must also have opportunities for engagement and professional preparation as they matriculate to colleges and universities if they are eventually to transition successfully into an Earth Science career and help to rebuild the aging geoscience workforce. This project addresses reform of Earth Science education statewide through a series of collaborative partnerships between the University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, and the Iowa Geological Survey. Targeted activities follow National Research Council recommendations for Preparing the Next Generation of Earth Scientists and are aimed specifically at the K-12, community college, four-year university, and professional geoscientist levels to dramatically improve the opportunities and outcomes for student awareness of, engagement with, and professional preparation for a potential career in geoscience.
This project is working to dramatically reshape geoscience education in the State of Iowa through four mechanisms: 1) directly funding teacher training and re-certification courses through continuing education credits; 2) developing and disseminating K-12 course content materials for NGSS Earth Science content in the classroom; 3) engaging undecided and early career undergraduate students at the University of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College in the geosciences, through a series of field trip experiences and independent research opportunities; and, 4) providing internship opportunities as professional preparation for students who intend to pursue a career in the Earth Sciences. This project focuses on the critical transitions from K-12 to college, community college to four-year university, and university to the geoscience workforce. This integrated and systemic approach to strengthen Earth Science education has the potential to transform Earth Science education in the State of Iowa, as well as establish a model for effective implementation of the NGSS Earth Science components that may have utility in other states that have adopted the NGSS. By the end of the three year project, a total of 225 K-12 teachers will receive continuing education credits, more than 350 community college and four-year college undergraduate students will engage in a series of geoscience field trip courses, and 45 undergraduate students will participate in mentored research/internship opportunities.