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The Earth Sciences and the Next Generation Science Standards

April 7, 2015

From GSA Today . . .  full article at


Next Generation Science Standards: A call to action for the geoscience community

Nicole D. LaDue1, Cheryl Brown Manning2

1 Dept. of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois 60115, USA
2 Evergreen High School, Evergreen, Colorado 80439, USA

How do we ensure the health of our geology departments with a steady stream of majors and build an informed public prepared to make important decisions on geoscience issues? The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a critical step, and they require the support of geoscientists nationwide.

The NGSS demonstrate an expanded emphasis on earth-science topics (such as natural resource distribution, human impacts on climate, and geologic history) compared to previous standards (NGSS, 2012; National Research Council, 1996). The NGSS present a rare opportunity to significantly improve K–12 earth-science education nationally because they (1) include up-to-date, timely topics important for public decision making; and (2) increase the rigor and prominence of earth-science content in K–12 classrooms. However, adoption of the NGSS requires state-level legislative action. Without support from geoscientists at the state level, the implementation of NGSS nationwide is threatened.

What can you do to ensure quality K–12 earth-science education?

  1. Promote the adoption of the NGSS in your state to local lawmakers and popular media. Check here to learn about NGSS in your state: Major legislative battles are taking place in many states due to push-back on controversial earth-science–relevant topics. Write letters to your lawmakers urging them to support the statewide adoption of NGSS. Write articles for local popular press, or hold a local science café through your institution’s STEM outreach office. Stress the importance of the NGSS for preparing an informed public to make decisions about natural resource use, climate change impacts, and natural hazards.
  2. Urge your state commissioners of education to provide adequate resources for teacher training to meet the Earth and Space Science Performance Expectations in the NGSS. Many local and regional school districts are struggling to adapt to curricular changes as a result of statewide adoption. The resources they need include earth-science content training, curriculum development training, classroom materials, computers, and strategic planning for implementing earth science either as a stand-alone course or infused into their physics, chemistry, and biology courses. The needs and resources of each district vary substantially; however, all schools need teacher training to understand the earth and space science standards and how to best meet the standards within the context of their school districts’ curriculum.
  3. Utilize broader impacts of funded projects to provide content knowledge training to regional teachers. Teachers in your area need a boost in their earth-science knowledge to meet the expectations of the NGSS. Specific challenges relate to understanding how the process of science can be different in the earth sciences as compared to other sciences and how to present politically charged issues, such as climate change, earth history and evolution, and natural resource use (such as fracking). Resources to facilitate your efforts are available through the following organizations and curricular repositories: National Association of Earth Science Teachers, Museum of the Earth, SERC, On the Cutting Edge, and the Geological Society of America, to name a few. Likewise, you can partner with colleagues in a college of education or STEM outreach office to help use the content you provide and to develop appropriate lessons for K–12 classrooms.

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