Reports from Recent Cutting Edge Workshops

published Mar 19, 2010 8:42am

By Karin Kirk and John McDaris, SERC

Freshmen Looking for Shark Teeth

In February, On the Cutting Edge ran two interesting and well-received virtual workshops: Teaching Geoscience with Service Learning and Understanding the Deep Earth.

The service learning workshop showcased several example projects such as water quality monitoring, teaching science in local elementary schools and building a sustainable garden. Participants learned about organizing a project using the 8 Block Model and strategies for finding and working with community partners. Through a peer review process, each workshop participant received feedback on their own service learning project.

At the Deep Earth workshop, several talks allowed the participants to learn about the state of science on issues such as the fate of the Farallon Slab that has subducted underneath North America and the debate over how far down mantle plumes originate. There were also presentations from faculty on how they have used this type of exciting new science to engage their students both at the introductory and more advanced levels. In many cases, it is the new ways of visualizing the deep interior of the planet that provides the hook to keep students interested but many resources exist that can draw students in. Based on what they learned, participants developed new teaching activities for addressing some part of the deep Earth in their classes and gave each other feedback on them.

These virtual workshops mark a step forward for On the Cutting Edge, allowing the program to extend its commitment to providing the workshop materials to interested educators who were not able to attend. Beyond posting the presentations and other files on the workshop websites, the synchronous sessions were recorded and audio/video files were linked to the workshop program. In addition, many asynchronous conversations during the workshops were held via threaded discussions which are also preserved on the websites. These additional modes of participation made it possible for registered participants to take part even if they had to miss a particular session and will allow for broader participation after the fact by other members of the geoscience education community.