Bridging the Earth Science Gap

Shannon Casey

National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego a $3 million grant to fund a new program that pairs Scripps earth systems science students with high school science teachers and their classes. The five-year grant provides funding for nine new Scripps graduate students fellows each year.

The Scripps Classroom Connection program is aimed at improving communication skills of Scripps graduate students by giving them teaching experience in middle and high school classrooms. In turn, it promotes and energizes the earth systems science curriculum in schools, improving Earth science literacy, which is fundamental to society’s efforts to effectively steward our fragile planet. Through this partnership, Scripps hopes to more effectively translate its discoveries in earth science research into exciting new earth science education for the next generation of aspiring young scientists.

“This is an exciting opportunity for me to explore the world of teaching and share my enthusiasm for science with the next generation,” said Elizabeth Johnstone, Scripps graduate student fellow. “Hopefully, some of the high school students will realize that science is cool and pursue their own scientific endeavors.”

The first nine Scripps graduate student fellows and their partner earth systems teachers from seven schools in the San Diego Unified School District have begun a four-week summer training program on the Scripps campus. During this orientation, which began on June 22, fellows and teachers are engaging in team-building activities and teachers are getting the opportunity to connect more closely to the research and researchers at Scripps.

This initial training is preparing fellows and teachers for the upcoming academic year, during which the graduate student-teacher pairs will bring enhanced earth systems science lessons to the classroom. Scripps graduate student fellows will spend on average 10 hours per week working in the classroom directly with science students.

The program is administered by project director Hubert Staudigel, a Scripps research geophysicist, and co-principal investigators Tony Haymet, Scripps director, Cheryl Peach, Scripps academic coordinator, and Lisa Tauxe, professor of geophysics.

“Bringing Scripps' research strengths in earth sciences to San Diego-area classrooms through interaction with our talented graduate students is a perfect hybrid of our mission to seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of our planet for the benefit of society," said Haymet. “I’m very excited to see how all parties benefit from this unique collaboration."

This year’s Scripps graduate student fellows (and their Scripps faculty advisors) are David Clark (Falk Feddersen and Bob Guza), Sylvia Cole (Dan Rudnick), Moira Decima (Michael Landry), Elizabeth Johnstone (Neal Driscoll), Deborah Kane (Frank Vernon), Alison Cawood (Mark Ohman), Jared Kluesner (Peter Lonsdale), Miriam Goldstein (Jim Leichter), and Geoffrey Gearheart (Gerald Kooyman).

High school teachers in the 2009 program are Jon Corbin, Mission Bay High School; Stephen Halpern, San Diego High School – Media, Visual, and Performing Arts; Malana Tabak, Kearny High School; Mark Snow, Mira Mesa High School; Dave Van Dusen, San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts; Susan Weinshanker, Mission Bay High School; Tara Howell, University City High School; Maureen Queensbury, University City High School; Maitravee Sahi, and Kearny High School – International Business.

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