EarthInquiry: Using On-Line Data to Help Students Explore Fundamental Concepts in Geoscience

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Using local case studies to learn about earth processes increases the relevance of science instruction. Students are encouraged to think about how geological processes affect their lives and experiences. Today, with many global data sets available on-line, instructors have unprecedented opportunities to bring local data into the classroom. However, while the resources are available, using on-line data presents a particular set of challenges. Access and entry to web sites frequently change and data format can be unpredictable. Often, instructors are faced with non-functional web sites on the day, or week, that they plan to assign a given activity. The American Geological Institute, with the participation of numerous geoscience professors, has developed EarthInquiry, a series of activities that utilize the abundant real-time and archived geoscience data available on-line. These modules are developed primarily for introductory college students. EarthInquiry modules follow a structured format, beginning with familiar examples at the global and national level to introduce students to the on-line data and the EarthInquiry web site. The web site offers detailed and up-to-date instructions on how to access the data, cached copies of sample data that can be used to complete each activity in the event of a network outage, and an assessment activity that helps students determine how well they have achieved an understanding of key concepts. The EarthInquiry booklet contains a series of engaging questions that allow students to solve problems in a scientific manner. As students gain content understanding and confidence in the requisite analysis, they examine the presented material at a more local level. In one activity, students explore the recurrence interval of a local stream. In other activities, they investigate the mineral resources and earthquake histories of their state. All modules are developed with the intent of building an appropriate cognitive foundation, while complimenting the topics typically discussed in an introductory physical or environmental geology course. The project is a collaboration of the American Geological Institute and W.H. Freeman and Company Publishers.

  • Mary Jo Alfano*
  • Christopher Keane*
  • Robert Ridky
  • American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2002