October 15, 2014

Make every week Earth Science Week!

Posted by Laura Guertin

We are in the middle of Earth Science Week (ESW), a celebration taking place across the United States and around the globe. We have the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) to thank for establishing this annual event that calls attention to the science and to the researchers in our discipline.

Each year, ESW has different focus days – today (Wednesday) being National Fossil Day, tomorrow is Geoscience for Everyone Day, and the celebrations continue through Saturday.  Each year has a different overall theme for the week. This year:

“Earth’s Connected Systems,” the theme of Earth Science Week 2014, engages young people and others in exploring the ways that geoscience illuminates natural change processes. By deepening our understanding of interactions of Earth systems — geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere — Earth science helps us manage our greatest challenges and make the most of vital opportunities. — From Earth Science Week

So many organizations are involved, and many resources are gathered together and placed online for this one-week celebration. Press releases about ESW are distributed with plenty of advance notice, and there is no shortage of ideas of how to get involved as a leader or as a participant.  And yet (here comes the guilt) – I’m not doing anything this year with my students during ESW. I have lots of excuses – GSA is next week, and I’m trying to prepare for a talk, a workshop, and a panel. I’m trying to get my lecture content together for the classes I’ll be missing, etc., etc… (this sound familiar to anyone else?).

Although I’m not doing anything with my students this week, I’m pulling in the ESW theme and various focus days with my students throughout the semester.  In fact, why shouldn’t we as faculty make a thoughtful effort to celebrate Earth Science throughout the academic year, not just for one week on October? Here are some thoughts of low-hanging fruit (and not-so low-hanging fruit) for ways we can refer back to ESW content and resources:

  1. Donate an Earth Science Week kit to your favorite K-12 teacher(s). The ESW kit has a wide range of materials that teachers can use in their classroom, from lesson plans to posters for the walls, and all of the materials are relevant even after Earth Science Week. The Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association (PAESTA) Annual Conference provides their attendees Earth Science Week kits each year, which is received with great enthusiasm and appreciation. Many of the teachers I work with in Pennsylvania do not teach Earth science until their spring term, so it is never too late to treat a teacher to a ESW kit! ESW kits from previous years are also available to order.
  2. Tie in to the ESW theme year-round on campus with academic programming. Organize an ESW-themed seminar series, or invite individual speakers for in-person or virtual seminars. Offer a one-credit course or first-year seminar relating to the theme one or both semesters. Encourage your campus to select a common read book relating to next year’s Earth Science Week theme.
  3. Have your own campus contests on the ESW theme.  Have a course-based “contest” or assignment based on one of the ESW contests (photography, visual arts, essay), or make the contest campus-wide. One year, I had my students use Flickr for a class photography contest during Earth Science Week (see abstract from AGU Fall Meeting presentation), which was a great opportunity for me to show a relevance and tie-in to the content and theme for that year – at least with my students in the fall semester.  Now if we only had a nationally-promoted, Earth Science theme for each academic year, I could really show the relevance and get buy-in with my non-science majors year-round (what do you think, AGI???).

Although this year’s ESW hasn’t ended, be sure to mark next year’s Earth Science Week on your calendar, October 11-17, 2015!