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INTRODUCTION To obtain an answer to the titular question, I encouraged geoscientists to share their urban educational experiences at the 2002 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting and collected their responses in this volume. These responses reveal a group united by their interest in making geoscience more inclusive but amazingly varied in nearly every other way. Their common interest manifests itself in two central beliefs: (T) that urban geoscience education more effectively serves urban residents (slightly more than 80% of the American population) and (2) that urban education encourages minority participation in the geosciences. The first belief reflects constructivist notions about the importance of the learner's environment and previous experiences, and the second belief reflects the desire to correct chronically low levels of minority involvement in the geosciences. These convictions spawned educational programs serving many different kinds of learners. Educators developed unique curricula to meet the needs of each audience, but most curricula incorporate content associated with the built environment. I list audience characteristics and examples of urban content in Tables 1A and 1B and provide summaries in the following paragraphs. AUDIENCE Urban geoscience education served many different kinds of learners (Tables IA and IB). Although most programs targeted an audience with a specific level of educational experience (e.g., elementary school students) at a specific location (e.g., Syracuse, NY), audience characteristics varied greatly from one program to another: * Participants included elementary, middle, and high school students, undergraduates (both majors and non-majors), K-12 teachers (both pre-service and in-service), graduate students, realtors, and community members. Most participants were pre-college students or K-12 teachers. * At least three programs served populations with substantial numbers of African American - (O'Connell et al. and Harnik and Ross), Hispanic (Birnbaum, O'Connell et al., and Harnik and Ross), and Asian American (Harnik and Ross) students. (Most manuscripts do not explicitly describe audience demographics.) * Audiences were drawn from every corner of the nation except the Pacific Northwest and Florida and resided in cities varying greatly in population. These cities included the nation's largest combined metropolitan area (New York City, NY-NJ-CT-PA), other metropolitan areas containing populations of over one million, and communities as small as Ithaca, NY (population: 96,501). Most manuscripts describe programs conducted in metropolitan areas containing between 1.1 and 2.6 million people. As illustrated by the preceding examples, urban geoscience education served learners with different levels of educational experience, some programs focused on minority learners, and program participants lived in cities both big and small. These varied audiences demonstrate the inclusiyeness of urban geoscience education. …
INTRODUCTION
To obtain an answer to the titular question, I encouraged
geoscientists to share their urban educational
experiences at the 2002 Geological Society of America
Annual Meeting and collected their responses in this
volume. These responses reveal a group united by their
interest in making geoscience more inclusive but
amazingly varied in nearly every other way. Their
common interest manifests itself in two central beliefs:
(1) that urban geoscience education more effectively
serves urban residents (slightly more than 80% of the
American population) and (2) that urban education
encourages minority participation in the geosciences.
The first belief reflects constructivist notions about the
importance of the learner’s environment and previous
experiences, and the second belief reflects the desire to
correct chronically low levels of minority involvement in
the geosciences. These convictions spawned educational
programs serving many different kinds of learners.
Educators developed unique curricula to meet the needs
of each audience, but most curricula incorporate content
associated with the built environment. I list audience
characteristics and examples of urban content in Tables
1A and 1B and provide summaries in the following
paragraphs.
AUDIENCE
Urban geoscience education served many different kinds
of learners (Tables 1A and 1B). Although most programs
targeted an audience with a specific level of educational
experience (e.g., elementary school students) at a specific
location (e.g., Syracuse, NY), audience characteristics
varied greatly from one program to another:
Participants included elementary, middle, and high
school students, undergraduates (both majors and
non-majors), K-12 teachers (both pre-service and
in-service), graduate students, realtors, and
community members. Most participants were
pre-college students or K-12 teachers.
At least three programs served populations with
substantial numbers of African American
(O’Connell et al. and Harnik and Ross), Hispanic
(Birnbaum, O’Connell et al., and Harnik and Ross),
and Asian American (Harnik and Ross) students.
(Most manuscripts do not explicitly describe
audience demographics.)
Audiences were drawn from every corner of the
nation except the Pacific Northwest and Florida and
resided in cities varying greatly in population. These
cities included the nation’s largest combined
metropolitan area (New York City, NY-NJ-CT-PA),
other metropolitan areas containing populations of
over one million, and communities as small as
Ithaca, NY (population: 96,501). Most manuscripts
describe programs conducted in metropolitan areas
containing between 1.1 and 2.6 million people.
As illustrated by the preceding examples, urban
geoscience education served learners with different
levels of educational experience, some programs focused
on minority learners, and program participants lived in
cities both big and small. These varied audiences
demonstrate the inclusiveness of urban geoscience
education. However, curricula developed for different
audiences differ in many particulars. What do these
curricula share?
CONTENT
Most urban geoscience curricula include content
associated with the built environment (Tables 1A and 1B)
although one notable exception eschews urban content
altogether. Some content is organized around themes
that are unique to the largest cities, but much content is
explicitly suburban. Examples follow:
A good example of a theme unique to the largest
cities is the impact of geology on the construction of
early Twentieth Century skyscrapers (Haddad).
Much explicitly suburban material addresses
human-environment interactions in urbanizing
areas. For example, one curriculum focuses on the
impact of urbanization on lake terraces and other
natural records of Earth history (geoantiquities) in
the Salt Lake City, UT area (Chan and Atwood;
Atwood et al.), and another curriculum was a direct
outgrowth of regional planning workshops in the
rapidly urbanizing Nashville, TN area (Abolins).
The Devonian Seas curriculum (Harnik and Ross)
focuses on fossils instead of the built environment.
According to the authors, an inquiry-based
pedagogy contributed greatly to the success of this
curriculum. This example suggests that, in some
cases, good urban geoscience education is simply
good geoscience education.
The above examples show that curricula described in this
volume include content relevant to both big city and
suburban learners.
CONCLUSION
Although urban geoscience education programs serve
many different kinds of learners, most curricula include
content focusing on the built environment.
Consequently, practitioners of urban geoscience
education are interested in (1) this kind of content and (2)
ways to use this content to meet the needs of different
audiences. The manuscripts in this volume describe
several case studies addressing these interests. Taken
together, urban geoscience education programs utilized
content relevant to both big city and suburban learners
and served audiences with different levels of educational
experience and various ethnic backgrounds. These
examples demonstrate the inclusiveness of urban
geoscience education.
Abolins - What is Urban Geoscience Education 405
What is Urban Geoscience Education?
Mark Abolins Department of Geosciences, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro,
TN 37132, mabolins@mtsu.edu
REFERENCES
U.S. Census Bureau, 2001a, Table 3: Metropolitan Areas
Ranked by Population: 2000, http://www.census.
gov/population/cen2000/phc-t3/tab03.pdf (8
August, 2004)
U.S. Census Bureau, 2001b, Table 3a: Population in
Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas
Ranked by 2000 Population for the United States and
Puerto Rico: 1990 and 2000, http://www.census.
gov/population/cen2000/phc-t29/tab03a.pdf (8
August, 2004)
406 Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 52, n. 5, November, 2004, p. 405-406
Audience
Examples of Urban Content Manuscript(s)
Level of
Education
Minorities
Served
Combined
Statistical Area Population
Pre-college students
K-12 students (Not
described) Los Angeles,
CA 16,373,645 Urban human-environment
interactions Barstow and
Yazijian
Elementary and
middle school
students and
teachers
Hispanic San Antonio, TX 1,592,383 Field investigations in and near urban
areas Birnbaum
High school
students
Hispanic,
African
American Hartford, CT 1,183,110 Urban water quality O’Connell et al.
Grades 5-9
African
American,
Hispanic,
Asian
American
Syracuse, NY
Utica, NY
Ithaca, NY
732,117
299,896
96,501
Natural and manmade materials
within the urban environment Harnik and
Ross
K-12 teachers
Teachers
(pre-service and
in-service)
(Not
described) Milwaukee, WI 1,689,572 Geologic features in or near urban
areas; building stones Kean et al.
Elementary
school teachers,
members of the
community
(Not
described) Salt Lake City,
UT 1,333,914 Ancient shorelines within urban
landscape; urbanization; terrace
gravels mined for aggregate
Chan and
Atwood;
Atwood et al.
Pre-service
middle and
high school
teachers
(Not
described) Mobile, AL 540,258 Using a map of a shopping mall to
teach geologic time Haywick et al.
Table 1A. Urban geoscience education programs serving pre-college students and K-12 teachers.
Populations of combined metropolitan statistical areas from U.S. Census Bureau (2001a). Populations of
Utica, NY and Ithica, NY are for metropolitan statistical areas and are from U.S. Census Bureau (2001b).
Audience Examples of
Urban Content Manuscript(s)
Level of
Education
Minorities
Served
Combined
Statistical Area Population
Undergraduate and graduate students
Undergraduates
(majors and
non-majors);
graduate
students; K-12
teachers
(Not described) Wayne, NJ (Part of New York
area) Urban water
quality Pardi et al.
Undergraduates
(non-majors) (Not described) Nashville, TN 1,231,311 Urbanization Abolins
Professionals
Realtors (Not described) Denver, CO
(Front Range) 2,581,506 Geologic hazards
in residential
areas Nuhfer
Table 1B. Urban geoscience education programs serving undergraduate and graduate students and
professionals. Populations of combined metropolitan statistical areas from U.S. Census Bureau (2001a).
For abstractsfrom the “Urbanizing Geoscience Education” session, see Geological Society of America Abstracts with
Programs, v. 34, n. 6, p. 92-94.
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Earth science education, as it is traditionally taught, involves presenting concepts such as weathering, erosion, and deposition using relatively well-known examples—the Grand Canyon, beach erosion, and others. However, these examples—which resonate well with middle- and upper-class students—ill-serve students of poverty attending urban schools who may have never traveled farther from home than the corner store. In this paper, I explore the use of a place-based educational framework in teaching earth science concepts to urban fifth graders and explore the connections they make between formal earth science content and their lived experiences using participant-driven photo elicitation techniques. I argue that students are able to gain a sounder understanding of earth science concepts when they are able to make direct observations between the content and their lived experiences and that when such direct observations are impossible they make analogies of appearance, structure, and response to make sense of the content. I discuss additionally the importance of expanding earth science instruction to include man-made materials, as these materials are excluded traditionally from the curriculum yet are most immediately available to urban students for examination.
Table 3: Metropolitan Areas Ranked by Population
  • U S Bureau
U.S. Census Bureau, 2001a, Table 3: Metropolitan Areas Ranked by Population: 2000, http://www.census. gov/population/cen2000/phc-t3/tab03.pdf (8
Table 3a: Population in Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Ranked by 2000 Population for the United States and Puerto Rico: 1990 and
  • U S Bureau
U.S. Census Bureau, 2001b, Table 3a: Population in Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Ranked by 2000 Population for the United States and Puerto Rico: 1990 and 2000, http://www.census. gov/population/cen2000/phc-t29/tab03a.pdf (8