Online Earth Science Course Starts in March

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Rebecca Dodge
Rebecca Dodge

A five-week online workshop designed by an AAPG Honorary Member to provide high school teachers with the skills and information to better teach earth and space sciences will be available in March.

Rebecca Dodge, a geology professor at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, and an AAPG Distinguished Service Award winner, designed the course around the skill standards required by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

The course, offered through the American College of Education, will provide teachers with specific information over class content, methods of teaching and activities – all accessible via the internet.

The course will examine:

  • Origins – solar system and origins of the earth’s systems.
  • Solid Earth – the earth’s interior, plate tectonics and geosphere.
  • Earth in Space and Time – geologic history and fossils.
  • Fluid Earth – hydrosphere and atmospheric energy distribution.
  • Earth Systems/Earth Resources – weather and climate, earth resources.

Each week brings new readings, lectures, exercises, videos and online discussions that give teachers content knowledge and full access to teaching materials, activities and real-world applications.

The course also offers a laboratory element, including a laboratory notebook, applications and exercises.

Dodge says her course will prepare teachers for their classes by giving them the background information necessary for them to make sure their class is addressing the TEKS standards.

The course “allows teachers to cover all of the material necessary to begin teaching the course, in a compact time frame and on their own,” Dodge said.

This course serves as more than just a tool for ESS teachers – it also can be used as a graduate credit course or a professional development class.

And even though it is designed to meet Texas’ TEKS standards, it is open to anyone in the United States needing any of the above.

Developing Informed Citizens

In Dodge’s opinion, the geological community has been in dire need of the ESS high school level program for many decades.

“With the needs of the professional geologic community and industries for geology graduates at the college level, having earth science taught in high school is critical to bringing students into geology graduates at the college level,” Dodge said.

She believes the addition of this high school class will absolutely increase the college numbers.

“If we don’t have earth science in our high schools it’s hard to get students to want to major in geology at the college level – they just don’t see it as a possible career path,” she said.

Simply getting the program into the high schools was a huge challenge for geologists.

“It’s been a real fight to get it into the high schools,” Dodge said. “A lot of AAPG members and other geologists from all over Texas worked really hard to make it happen.”

She credited specifically AAPG Honorary Member Stan Pittman for being an instrumental force in getting ESS approved in Texas.

Dodge estimates the battle to include ESS into secondary schools has been ongoing for at least 20 years – and although she is delighted that they have finally won, the educational system seems to have a lot of catching up to do.

“Because ESS hasn’t been taught in high school for many years, the colleges of education haven’t spent a lot of time teaching their students how to teach these science concepts,” she said.

Now, not only are Texas schools struggling to find teachers certified to teach the class, many who are qualified have not been updated with the newest knowledge and information.

Dodge was happy that AAPG members responded so quickly to help in the effort.

“They thought, ‘Okay, people are going to have to teach this class well, so what do they need, and how can we help them?’” Dodge said.

Her first suggestion: AAPG members can help by going into the high schools and volunteering to be a classroom speaker.

“This is a great opportunity where geologists can share their knowledge, perspectives and career experiences with students,” she said.

Finally, Dodge hopes that this ESS class will allow teachers and the geological community to help students understand the role and need for natural resources in our society.

“We need to look at this course as a way to develop informed citizens,” she said, “not just geology majors.”

The course begins March 14; for more information, go to the American College of Education Website.

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