Canadian Geoscience Education Network (CGEN): Fostering Excellence in Earth Science Education and Outreach
CGEN, the outreach arm of the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, is a network of more than 270 individuals from all over Canada who work to promote geoscience education and public awareness of science. CGEN's priorities are threefold: to improve the quality of Earth science education delivered in our primary and secondary schools; to raise public awareness about the Earth sciences and their impact on everyday life; and to encourage student interest in the Earth sciences as a career option. These priorities are supported by CGEN's six core programs: 1) The national EdGEO program (www.edgeo.org), initiated in the 1970s, supports Earth science workshops for teachers. These workshops, organized by teams of local educators and geoscientists, provide teachers with "enhanced knowledge, classroom resources and increased confidence" to more effectively teach Earth science. In 2008, a record 521 teachers attended 14 EdGEO workshops. 2) EarthNet (www.earthnet-geonet.ca) is a virtual resource centre that provides support for teachers and for geoscientists involved in education and outreach. In 2008, EarthNet received a $11,500 grant from Encana Corporation to develop energy-related content. 3) The new Careers in Earth Science website (www.earthsciencescanada.com/careers), launched in October 2008, enhances CGEN's capacity to encourage students to pursue a career in the Earth sciences. This project exemplifies the value of collaboration with other organizations. Seven groups provided financial support for the project and many other organizations and individuals contributed in-kind support. 4) Geoscape Canada and Waterscape Canada, programs led by the Geological Survey of Canada, communicate practical Earth science information to teachers, students, and other members of communities across Canada through a series of electronic and hard-copy posters and other resources. Many of the resources created from 1998 to 2007 are available online (www.geoscape.nrcan.gc.ca). A northern British Columbia geological highway map was published in 2008. In the works are a geological map for southern British Columbia and three community and regional geoscience guides. 5) What on Earth (www.whatonearth.org), a biannual national newsletter established at the University of Waterloo in 1987, provides a range of Earth science information for teachers in Canada and elsewhere. It was originally published as a colourful printed newsletter, which in recent years was also available online; new issues will be available only online. 6) Friends of Canadian Geoheritage is a new national program currently being piloted in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, where it is working with municipal and other government agencies, schools, universities, and community groups to help preserve, protect and promote Canada's rich geoheritage. A new Geo-Park, a book on building materials in Ottawa, a Geoheritage day, field trips and public talks are just some of the initiatives underway.
Sharing the Earth Sciences with the Public, Student and Educators: Approaches that Work for the National Center for Atmospheric Research
What approaches can institutions use to effectively bring the Earth and space sciences to the public, students
and educators? At the National Center for Atmospheric Research, we use a multifaceted approach to reach
these audiences, engaging participants across our scientific and educational community, and working across
traditional boundaries of emphasis. By engaging participation from across our organization - scientific and
non-scientific staff, as well as education specialists, we can build institutional engagement and provide
professional development for staff. By multi-purposing resources, we can build efficiencies into our programs
and reduce duplication of effort. Integrated assessment has become a critical part of specific programs, and
allows us to improve our programs in both a formative and summative context.
AGU Outreach: Earth and space science expertise for the public
AGU is an international Union of scientists, working together on a broad spectrum of scientific topics that span all of the Earth and space sciences. Our research encompasses everything from the exploration of the planets, to studies of the structure and chemical composition of the Earth's deep interior, to understanding the Earth's atmosphere and the causes of climate change. These are not only exciting scientific topics but many of the problems that we are working on are of great interest and relevance to people all over the world. The Outreach programs and activities at AGU inform and educate the public about the Earth and space sciences, foster a strong and diverse Earth and space science workforce, and provide expertise to serve as a basis for the development of public policy. AGU offers a variety of Outreach programs and activities associated with the meetings as well as in other venues. We will present examples of these; discuss what has worked and what presents difficulties; and propose concepts for future directions in education, public information and public affairs.
The Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA): Geoscience Education for Today's Teachers
ESSEA supports universities, colleges, and science education organizations as they deliver Earth system
science courses to pre-service, middle, and high school teachers. ESSEA works with new institutions to build
their capacity to use these courses to deliver exceptional professional development to a national audience and
provides them with evaluation tools to ensure that those teachers trained have a strong understanding of Earth
system science. The courses also model how to effectively teach using inquiry and assist teachers in creating
an infrastructure capable of sustaining this exceptional program.
Canadian EdGEO National Workshop Program
Established in the early 1970s, EdGEO supports locally driven geosciences workshops for Canadian teachers.
Workshops are organized by geoscientists and teachers, and typically have field, laboratory and classroom
components. Grants of up to $3000 per workshop are available from the National EdGEO Program.
By providing educational opportunities for today's teachers and, through them, their students, EdGEO seeks to
cultivate a heightened awareness of our planet. EdGEO workshops provide teachers with potential fieldtrip
sites for their students and the knowledge, enthusiasm and materials to inspire their students to engage in
geoscience. Networking opportunities with local experts promote the importance of the geoscience profession.
The expected result is an improved capacity on the part of Canadians to understand the Earth and to make
informed decisions, especially with regard to the use of mineral and energy resources, the maintenance and
remediation of the environment, and response to geological hazards.
There exists a critical need to provide teachers with training and resources to tackle their Earth science
curricula. In 2008, EdGEO supported fourteen workshops, with an unprecedented 521 teachers attending.
These teachers then used our resources to reach an estimated 14,000 students during that single academic
EdGEO workshops are locally driven and are therefore very diverse. Workshops are strongly tied to the
provincial curriculum, focus on a specific geoscience topic, or may be largely field-based to demonstrate and
practice how field activities could be incorporated into Earth science teaching. Many strive to include all of these
Geoscientists and teachers work collaboratively to develop and deliver EdGEO workshops to ensure that the
activities can be effectively used in the classroom. The length of these professional development opportunities
range from two-hour sessions to several days, and can generally accommodate up to twenty-five teachers.
Workshops have been presented at teachers' conferences, province-wide professional development days,
industry events, and independently.
Participants consistently rate EdGEO workshops as excellent and outstanding. Responses on the evaluation
forms suggest that teachers value the hands-on aspect of the workshops, the strong connection to the
curriculum, the classroom resources provided, the field components, the collaborations forged between
teachers and geoscientists, and the knowledge gained. Comments also continually make reference to the
talented experts who enthusiastically commit to sharing their expertise in geoscience.
The ability of EdGEO to advance its vital mission relies on the generous support of scientific associations,
corporations, foundations and individuals. With increased funding, EdGEO's future will see the expansion of
partnerships with Faculties of Education across Canada. These faculties offer an opportunity to reach out to
aspiring teachers before they enter the classroom. Future plans include the compilation of EdGEO lesson
plans from coast to coast. These valuable resources would connect to provincial curriculum, provide an
opportunity to wedge Earth science into other science subjects, and serve as the basis for developing a series
of standardized workshops to be implemented across the nation.
Earth Science Outreach: A Move in the Right Direction
There is concern within the Geoscience Community about the public's limited understanding of Earth Science
and its fundamental contribution to society. Earth Science plays only a minor role in public school education in
Ontario leaving many students to stumble upon this field of study in post-secondary institutions. As the Earth
Sciences offer relevant advice for political decisions and provide excellent career opportunities, outreach is an
increasingly important component of our work.
Recruitment of post-secondary students after they have chosen their discipline cannot remain the sole
opportunity. Outreach must be directed to potential students at an early stage of their education. High school
teachers are influential, directing students towards professional careers. Therefore we are first committed to
reach these teachers. We provide professional development, resources and continued support, building an
enthusiastic community of educators. Specific initiatives include: a three day workshop supported by a grant
from EdGEO introducing earth science exercises and local field destinations; a resource kit with minerals,
rocks, fossils, mineral identification tools and manuals; a CD with prepared classroom exercises; and in-class
demonstrations and field trip guiding on request. Maintaining a growing network with teachers has proven
Direct public school student engagement is also given priority. We inspire students through interaction with
researchers and graduate students, hand-on exercises, and by providing opportunities to visit our department
and work with our collections. Successful projects include our week-long course "School of Rock" for the
Enrichment Mini-Course Program, classroom visits and presentations on the exciting and rewarding career
paths in geology during Carleton University open houses.
Outreach to the general public allows us to educate the wider community about the Geoheritage of our region,
and initiate discussions about science and global issues such as climate science and stewardship of our
natural resources. A new initiative for Science and Technology Week, 'Explore Geoheritage Day' introduced the
public to the geological history of the National Capital Region. We have found collaborations with other
agencies very effective. We work with PDAC's "Mining Matters", LTS, the Ottawa Gatineau Geoheritage Project,
Ottawa Heritage, STAO, local school boards, naturalist groups, and other community organizations to promote
Earth Science education.
Our efforts over the last 5 years have brought tangible results in: a) a considerable increase in student
enrolment at the university level in our department; b) increased teaching of the Grade 12 Earth and Space
Sciences course at local high schools through teachers who were inspired by our workshops; c) a flourishing
network of enthusiastic earth science educators sharing ideas with us to define each other's needs; and d) a
growing interaction with the general public.
Future initiatives need to consider lobbying for curriculum changes to give Earth Science a prominent place in
the public education system. As well, only few university education departments currently allow Earth Science
graduates into their programs, requiring them to first take additional courses in other "teachable" subjects.
This must change. University graduates with an Earth Science degree and an interest in teaching must be
permitted direct entry into these programs so that their skills will be passed on to the next generation of
Celebration of the International Year of Planet Earth in Canada: A Work in Progress
The International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE, 2007-2009) has been the inspiration for a variety of projects
across Canada. Local events, including speaker series and educational programs in Earth sciences have
taken place in several parts of the country in 2008-09. Most Canadian conferences for Earth scientists have
developed programs reflecting IYPE in 2008 and 2009. The Walcott Conference, celebrating the 100th
anniversary of the discovery of the Burgess Shale fauna, to be held in Banff in August 2009 has sponsorship
from IYPE. All these projects have served to raise the local and national profile of IYPE and provide learning
opportunities for many Canadians.
The Canadian National Committee for IYPE developed the theme WHERE, which is an acronym for Water,
Hazards, Energy, Resources and Environment. The tag line is Where on Earth? Where in Canada?
Proposals for projects were sought nationally for projects that would leave a legacy following the completion of
IYPE. The initial proposals were recast into a program of consolidated projects and funds were sought to
support them, mainly from the private sector. Already completed are 32 fact sheets on mineral and energy
resources and a poster on the resources required to build and run a snowmobile. There are several projects in
various states of completion at the time of writing: these are showcased at www.EarthSciencesCanada.com
and are intended to form a legacy that will last for years to come. Other projects were funded directly by local
agencies to celebrate IYPE; an example is new signage in Alberta Provincial Parks funded by the Alberta
The WHERE Challenge asks Canadians aged 10-14 to answer two simple questions: What on Earth is in your
stuff and where on Earth does it come from? Thousands of students are expected to enter this contest by the
end of February by telling a story about the Earth resources required to build everyday objects. The story can be
told in any medium and the more creative it is the better. Entries will be judged in each of seven regions and
then the regional winners will be considered for three national prizes. The prizes will be awarded on Earth Day
in April 2009.
Another project nearing completion is the Earth Science Careers Web Site that is a comprehensive, interactive
and animated web site providing critical information to Canadian youth about the many and varied careers that
are possible within Earth science. We hope that this will spark interest in Earth science careers among a wide
spectrum of Canadian youth.
A book entitled Four Billion Years and Counting: Canada's Geological Heritage is under preparation and
should be published by the end of 2009. It will feature many beautiful photographs, hundreds of new
illustrations and text that describes Earth processes, the evolution of Canada in time-slices and the social
impact of Earth sciences in the country. It is being developed as a grassroots project with the latest science
provided by experts and developed into reader-friendly text by teams of reviewers and the editors. The
illustrations will be available on-line for free download after the book has been published.
All of these products will be passed on for continuing support to the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences at
the end of 2009.