In the Trenches - July 2018

Making Earth Science Visible, Accessible, Engaging

Volume 8, Number 3

In This Issue

This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. Members can follow the "Read more" links below to access full versions of the articles online. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches, join NAGT

Following the Water: Mexican Middle Schoolers Model Their Local Watershed

Tom Ekman, The Sierra School, Todos Santos, BCS, Mexico

As a 7th grade biology teacher at the bilingual Sierra School in Mexico, I try to get my students outside as often as possible. The pristine desert around our school presents a paradox: while the entire landscape is dramatically carved by arroyos (dry washes) and broad fluvial plains, we rarely actually see the rain that so palpably shapes our environment. Apart from a huge hurricane-related storm every other year, rain is very rare. I explain to students that a "watershed" is a useful model for scientists, who use it to calculate the amount of water being "shed" out of a given geographic basin. This calculation is useful for studies of agriculture, drinking supply, and power generation. It also allows scientists to trace water pollutants back to their source. My 7th grade students are just on the cusp of grasping abstract concepts in science. "Watershed" offers the dual challenge of not only being partly abstract, but also a somewhat dormant element in our environment for the 360+ days of the year without rain! Read more...

Visual Environmental Communication: Art-Science Collaboration in a Liberal Arts Setting

Zion Klos, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY, and Lucy Holtsnider, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA

Psychological research suggests that human engagement with an environmental problem such as climate change requires not only the cognitive understanding of the problem, but also an intuitive, or affective, engagement with the problem to motivate action (Sheppard, 2005). Traditional cognitive-first approaches to science communication may fail to fully engage the general public (and students) with these environmental problems because they lack the ability to effectively engage the crucial social-psychological aspects of intuition, emotion, and affect (Zajonc, 1984). Science communication collaborations which include creative actors from the worlds of art, humanities, and design (Eldred, 2016) provide a much stronger overlap of cognition and intuition when communicating about such issues as climate change (Neill et al., 2014). However, collaborative efforts between scientists and artists are still relatively rare. Read more...
  • In this SISL teaching activity, students use art to consider the effects of industrial culture on the environment and envision how to create a more positive and sustainable future by creating artwork based on images of environmental damage. The students will use these images to address the social and economic basis for environmental harms, as well as how to reclaim damaged areas and live in a more ecologically sustainable manner.

My Favorite Demonstration: The P-Wave Shadow Zone: Shedding Light on the Concept

Gregory Mead, Santa Fe College, Gainesville, FL

One of the joys and challenges of teaching Earth sciences (loosely, geology, oceanography, meteorology, and astronomy) is that there are many phenomena that happen at spatial scales that are too large or too small or at temporal scales that are too long or too short to be witnessed in a typical classroom setting. Earth science processes are often intensely visual. In the classroom, then, we often need to put together demonstrations that must overcome these limits. These demonstrations can be used either to illustrate these concepts or to address the many misconceptions about Earth sciences. Computer simulations can be helpful, but students know that you can show just about anything with a computer, real or not, and nothing beats an actual physical demonstration. Read more...
  • Seismic Wave Races is an in-class activity designed to help students discover WHY P and S waves behave the way they do and how they are affected by their environment. It also goes into how we use seismic waves to determine the geologic structure of the earth (on a very basic level).

Letter to the Editor: Teaching Origins in the East Texas "Bible Belt"

Rebecca Owens, Tyler Junior College, Tyler, Texas

Thank you for the recent issue of In The Trenches addressing the difficulty of teaching topics such as evolution, the Big Bang Theory, and other origins related

topics to students who have previously learned these are anti-Christian. This is a constant challenge for me, as I teach historical and physical geology in Tyler, Texas. A simple technique I use to encourage my conservative Christian students not to be afraid of these topics is the inclusion of a homework assignment on the history of society's acceptance or rejection

of evolution and the age of the earth. A simple technique I use to encourage my conservative Christian students not to be afraid of these topics is the inclusion of a homework assignment on the history of society's acceptance or rejection of evolution and the age of the earth. Read more...

  • Evolution is a fundamental theory of modern geosciences and life sciences, yet it is one of the most controversial issues within science education. The origins of the controversy have both historical and philosophical roots. In this teaching activity, students examine dominant and alternative perspectives on what science is, what religion is, and the existence and location of boundaries between these disciplines.

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