Who is Teaching Your Children?
It is necessary to have qualified geology teachers in educational settings in order to promote more interest and encourage young people to go into the earth science and science fields. Geology teachers have access to outside resources such as other professional geologists who can be invited into the classroom to give students first hand information on what geologists and earth scientists do on a daily basis. By drawing on the knowledge of the various earth scientists (volcanologist, sedimentologist, geochemist, etc.) students can get a more in depth understanding of a specific field of science. The reality is that not all education systems hire qualified teachers. In the Nova Scotia Education system, for example, seniority often tends to over ride qualifications. Someone with a degree in geology and no seniority may be overlooked while the position is given to someone with more seniority and a few courses in geology. This can result in lack of in depth knowledge, lack of earth science contacts, low student interest, etc. which translates into a decreased possibility of attracting students into the earth science field. Unfortunately, unqualified people can be hired because seniority takes precedence over qualifications due to contractual agreements made between the Teachers Union (NSTU) and the School Board (HRSB). It is important for school boards in these situations to assure that both qualifications and seniority are taken into consideration when hiring teaching staff. The earth science field is growing due to increased focus on the environment; therefore, it is important to educate students on the importance of this field as a leading contributor to taking care of our planet for they are the caretakers of the future. Qualified earth science teachers are able to spark student interest not only because they have in depth knowledge of the field but because they also have a passion for their work.
Government schools in Congo kinshasa are not providing quality education to the masses since many years, and this phenomenon has not escaped the eyes of experts, activists, and policy makers. However, there seems to be a general perception that the main, and sometimes even the sole, source of this problem are the low levels of government expenditure of education. And to prove their case supports of this view cite educational expenditure to GDP ratios in Congo kinshasa in comparison with that of some other nations. Though there may be reasonable arguments to increase the level of government expenditure on education, such hijacking of public debate to focus on - the level of expenditure - often overlooks more important issues. Contrary to common perception the level of per student expenditure on government schools in Delhi is reasonable, ranging from Fc.6000 to Fc.12000 p.a. There are a number of organisational deficiencies which do not create checks and balances for appropriate utilization of fund. Moreover, the division of these funds among social groups and for different purposes is also questionable. Though, female literacy lags significantly behind male literacy, about 15% points, extra resources provided for female education are insignificant. And in some schemes such as the one run for 'street children' and 'child labourers', large amounts are budgeted year after year without a single French congolese being spent. Also government schools catering to richer regions of Kinshasa seem to be spending more per child as compared to the poorer counterparts. The paper also proposes an education voucher model, which may have the potential to address some of the issues raised in the paper. Trends in expenditure under some schemes have been studied in relation to the purpose of expenditure. The issue of government expenditure on education is a complex one, and public space should be utilized to discuss them as they are, rather than reducing discussion to dogmatic wars aimed at increasing the levels of expenditure. Though, one may agree or disagree with the methods and findings of the author, hopefully the paper highlight the complexity of the issue at hand, and the need to understand the institutional deficiencies and allocative inefficiencies in government expenditure on education.
Empowering Rural Appalachian Youth Through Integrated Inquiry-based Earth Science
Science education must be relevant and inspiring to keep students engaged and receptive to learning. Reports
suggest that science education reform can be advanced by involving students in active research (NSF 1996).
Through a 2-year Geoscience Education award from the National Science Foundation, a program called IDGE
(Integrated Design for Geoscience Education) has targeted low-income, under-represented, and minority high
school students in rural Appalachia in inquiry-based projects, international collaboration, and an international
environmental expedition incorporating the GLOBE program protocols. This program targeted Upward Bound
students at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. The Upward Bound is a federally-supported
program targeting low-income, under-represented, and minority students for inclusion in a summer academic-
enrichment program. IDGE builds on the mission of Upward Bound by encouraging underprivileged students
to investigate science and scientific careers. This outreach has proven to be successful in enhancing positive
attitudes and understanding about science and increasing the number of students considering science
careers. IDGE has found that students must be challenged to observe the world around them and to consider
how their decisions affect the future of our planet, thus making geoscience relevant and interesting to the
students. By making the geoscience course inquiry-based and incorporating field research that is relevant to
local environmental issues, it becomes possible for students to bridge the gap between science in theory and
science in practice while remaining engaged. Participants were able to broaden environmental connections
through an ecological expedition experience to Costa Rica, serving as an opportunity to broaden the vision of
students as members of an international community of learners and scientists through their experiences with
a diverse natural environment. This trip, in coordination with the inclusion of scientific instruments such as
GPS and probeware, fostered additional student interest in earth science. IDGE has shown to have a lasting
effect on the participating students who learn from the experience that science is a dynamic field in need of
creative minds who want to make discoveries. Through relevant inquiry, the quality of geoscience instruction is
inspiring a new generation of geoscientists. This work was supported in part by the National Science
Foundation under award 0735596. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this
material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.
Geoscience Garden: an outdoor teaching installation at the University of Alberta
Spatial awareness, and the abilities to position observations and inferences on a two-dimensional map and within the three-dimensional environment of the Earth's crust, are some of the the larger challenges facing beginning Earth Science students. Studies have shown that outdoor observations of outcrops are vital in the development of these spatial skills. However, teaching the techniques of field geology to Earth Science students is challenging in many parts of the continental interior, where nearly flat-lying, weakly consolidated, poorly exposed sedimentary rocks may be concealed beneath recent soils and Quaternary sediments. At the University of Alberta, these problems are offset by field courses at distant locations in more varied terrains during the spring and summer, but the distances (~300 km) and climate make fieldwork difficult during a busy teaching year that extends from September to April. The Geoscience Garden will be a unique landscaped area within the University of Alberta campus in which large (1 - 5 m), boulders and rock slabs will be built into oriented, simulated outcrops. These will be arranged in a layout that represents the geology of western and northern Canada in condensed form. The Garden, currently in the process of installation, will provide an artificial field environment in which Earth Science students can develop observational skills, and construct a simple geological map. They will be able to interpret the mapped area in terms of a three-dimensional structure, and make stratigraphic inferences about the order of deposition of the units and the environmental changes that occurred during the geologic history of the simulated area. In addition to more common rock types, the Garden will also display specimens of mineral deposits in geological context, and illustrate their importance to rural and northern communities. A buried boulder that has high magnetic susceptibility will provide a target for introductory geophysical field surveys. The project will add a unique capability for teaching basic field skills to students in a local environment, and will prepare students for field courses at more senior levels in more remote locations. In addition to use in a variety of courses and programs within the university, the Geoscience Garden will be open for use by K-12 school groups. These groups currently frequently visit the department's indoor museums; the Garden will provide a practical, hands-on extension to these visits. Instructional materials targeted towards groups at various grade levels will be developed. The success of the installation will be evaluated by surveys of student and user experiences, carried out before and after installation of the Garden.
A Simple Demonstration of a General rule for the Variation of Magnetic Field with Distance
Most science students have some basic knowledge about magnets: magnetic poles attract or repel, depending on their polarity; the shorter the distance to the magnet, the greater the magnetic force. However, the specific magnetic force-distance relationship seems to confuse students. Many students appear to believe, mistakenly based on analogy to the electrostatic field or to gravity, that the force between magnets follows the familiar inverse-square law. It is difficult to teach them that the direction and magnitude of a magnetic field varies in quite a different manner from other interacting forces. I propose an educational demonstration illustrating the variation in magnitude of a magnetic field with distance, allowing students to grasp the idea of magnetic poles and dipoles. The method uses an ordinary geologic compass, a small circular magnet, and a bar magnet about 60 cm long. The small magnet is similar to those commonly used on household bulletin boards or refrigerator doors. The long bar magnet is a steel bar magnetized by a long solenoid coil with the application of a small current. The experiment is unique in that it is designed to permit students to infer a general law from their observations and requires no special instruments. The principle of this experiment is based on electromagnetism but is more readily understood, as it uses only ratios of measured properties. Some logarithmic and trigonometric calculations, easily computed with a pocket calculator, are required. No special calculations requiring a computer are necessary.
In-Class Quantification of the Mentos and Diet Coke Analogue Experiment: Effects of Wind on Volcanic Isopach Patterns
The Mentos and Diet Coke experiment, where instantaneous emplacement of Mentos candy in Diet Coke creates a soda/CO2 eruptive plume, is a common educational analogue for a volcanic eruption. In this paper, we quantify the effects of varying directional wind speeds on the eruptive plume as a learning tool in advanced Introductory Geology and Volcanology courses. The Mentos and Diet Coke reaction is a fun, safe and affordable analogue for explosive, single pulse, basaltic eruptions (e.g., Strombolian eruptions). Specifically, the physical and chemical reaction nucleating CO2 bubbles on the pitted surface of Mentos candy is directly analogous to the collapsing foam eruption regime described by Parfitt (2004) where inertia driven fragmentation of the liquid (Namiki and Manga, 2008) leads to basaltic pyroclastic eruptions. Often, in these systems, the pyroclasts are carried downwind, resulting lopsided (downwind side taller) cinder cones. In our experiments, we create a single pulse eruption by simultaneously dropping four Mentos candies into a 16.9 oz. bottle of Diet Coke. The experiments are run under different wind conditions created by three stacked box fans in the off (control experiment) low, medium and high settings. Wind speed is measured using a hand held anemometer. The pyroclast dispersal is recorded by degree of liquid saturation through four layers of newspaper. The liquid is allowed to soak in for thirty seconds post eruption and then the individual layers of newspaper are separated and the saturation envelope is traced with a black marker and digitally photographed. The pyroclast dispersal envelope (or saturation area) is then quantified from the photos by image analysis in Adobe Photoshop. In addition, the experiments are videotaped to quantify ejection velocity using frame by frame analysis in iMovie. The resulting isopach ("deposit thickness") maps indicate a strong tightening of dispersal envelopes with increasing wind speed as seen in natural volcanic systems. Ongoing work is being done to scale the ejection velocities and dispersal envelope area up to natural eruptions. This simple and fun experiment brings a quantitative element to an experiment that is often limited to a show and tell exercise. In addition to covering the fundamental concepts of ejection velocity and isopach envelopes during explosive eruptions, it also exposes students to quantitative image and video analysis.
Monuments and Memorials: Geoscience and the Historic Record
Many communities have a cemetery, war memorial, public sculpture or old historic buildings that are an important part of the historic record of that community. Such monuments celebrate achievements, commemorate people who died serving their country, or a prominent former member of the local community. Monuments and memorials can trace the histiry of settlement within a community. After a number of years researching cemeteries and memorials, primarily in western Canada my research partner, a historian, and I, a geoscience educator,have documented many monuments and memorials that are succumbing to basic weathering processes. Original design choices can be dictated by cost, material availability, access to transportation and emotions. Climate, type of material, construction methods, technology used and long-term maintenance can all have significant impacts on the sustainability of that material record. Over the last five years we have given many lectures and workshops on the nature of cemeteries to family historians, historical societies and classroom educators. These workshops and lectures focus on developing a better ommunity understanding of the fragility of the record. Field trips by students of all ages can contextualize both geology and history. Seeing local monumanets can facilitate the development of a sense of time and place as well as an appreciation of the environmental impacts and the longevity of the record. For the earth science student documentation of the installation enable comparisons of weathering rates of different materials, the effects of local climate or impacts of pollution. Being able to go to a local memorial or cemetery to compare diffrent structures brings a powerful local context to the learning. However we both have concerns that modern techniques that enable the creation of more elaborate memorials are actually setting the stage for more rapid deterioration. I will illustrate a cross section of our reseacrh and the impact it has had on awareness in our local community.
Meetings with the Universe
One of the most characteristic traits of the current astronomical research is a huge amount of professional information and an ever-increasing flow of observational data, a substantial fraction of which comes in pictures so appealing to the general public. In 2007, a group of research scientists of the Astronomical Institute of Slovak Academy of Sciences (Slovakia) got approved a project aimed at a specific transfer of astronomical data and knowledge to the general public -- a task of crucial importance especially this year, the IYA2009. The aim of the project is to popularise the field of astronomy to the wide public community and to increase the rudimentary astronomical knowledge of pupils and students of basic and secondary schools. One of the project's tasks is also to deepen such knowledge of teachers of physics, geography and natural sciences by organizing astronomy-focused meetings at a national level. It is important that the students and the wide public acquire information about practical applications of both astronomical and space research and see explicitly where a non-negligible part of the state budget from tax payers goes. This contribution highlights our experience being engaged in such activities and gives some tips for future developments this important professional-public relations.