A new series of pamphlets on climate, the atmosphere, oceans and the earth has been created, and the reason why is simple to explain.
“There’s a need for better science curriculum in America.”
That’s the feeling of AAPG member Bob Raynolds, a research associate at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science who was part of the team that created the pamphlets and is now part of the effort to ensure the pamphlets make an impact.
The series was funded by the National Science Foundation to foster science education for those, admittedly, who don’t know much about it.
The Foundation believes this series is an effective tool to share basic scientific knowledge – and the latest pamphlet, Earth Science Literacy Principles, was designed specifically for the general public.
“For someone with not a lot of science background,” added Raynolds, a former chair of the AAPG Public Outreach Committee.
To that end, Raynolds, now an adjunct faculty member in the Colorado School of Mines’ department of geophysics, says he carries the pamphlets around in his back pocket and literally hands them out on the street and actually leaves them in taxicabs.
He puts it this way:
“If I were standing in a polling place, on line, and turned around to the guy behind me, what would I want him to know about earth science?”
By his own admission, Raynolds, who also has worked as a stratigrapher and has had stints with Exxon Production Research and Amoco Production in Houston and Denver, said he “loves this stuff” and believes it’s important – not just for the sake of science itself or even for those in college completing a basic liberal arts education, but for something more crucial: competition in the global market place.
“It is important that science education is nurtured in our society,” he said.
And the need for that nurturing, he said, is crucial.
“The Chinese are graduating six million from college every year. Six million, as compared to our 1.3 million! And that’s not even including what’s happening in India and Europe,” he said. “We (Americans) need to be competitive, especially in the sciences.”
As for the earth science pamphlet, he says it’s a “pretty logical thing.”
The work is divided into what it calls the nine “Big Ideas:”
- Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
- The earth is 4.6 billion years old.
- Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air and life.
- Earth is continuously changing.
- Earth is the water planet.
- Life evolves on a dynamic earth and continuously modifies Earth.
- Humans depend on Earth for resources.
- Natural hazards pose risks to humans.
- Humans significantly alter Earth.
A Passionate Production
The pamphlet was put together by “a bunch of passionate geologists writing about their art,” and flows from a basic understanding of the age of the earth to the effects of climate change, which he says is causing textbooks to be re-written.
“We are literally throwing out the old ones and having to write new ones,” he said.
Specifically, the pamphlet is a project of NSF-funded Earth Science Literacy Initiative (ESLI). Its purpose, according to the organization’s Web site, is to gather and codify “the underlying understandings of Earth sciences into a succinct document that will have broad-reaching applications in both public and private arenas.”
The group believes the concepts introduced in this pamphlet – and the corresponding “Big Ideas” – are principles with which Americans need to have some familiarity.
Additionally, NSF has sponsored:
- Oceans Literacy Network – co-sponsored by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Geographic Society and the Marine Educator Association, which discusses agreed-upon principles in ocean literacy and maps them to fundamental concepts and NSES content standards in order to facilitate their integration into educational curricula for students K-12.
- Atmospheric Science Literacy Framework, funded by the NSF, which brought together a group of scientists, educators and policy specialists to produce a draft framework composed of “essential principles” and “fundamental concepts” for literacy in atmospheric science and climate.
- The Climate Literacy Network, which was created to serve as a framework for understanding and communicating about climate science and to give those who teach climate science a set of principles to meet learning standards in their curriculum.
Raynolds said the goals and gestation of the pamphlets were similar.
“They were created by a team of geoscientists,” he said, “with input from hundreds of colleagues through Web media, focus group meetings and public forums at professional meetings.”
Raynolds said that while there isn’t yet a formal mechanism to deliver these pamphlets, he wants them made available to everyone. The pamphlet is downloadable at www.earthscienceliteracy.org.
Science teachers, obviously, as well as state education departments would be the first step. Of that he says, “it’s easy to hand it to the choir.”
It’s the cab drivers, he seems to be saying, who really need them.