Day-Long Workshop Detailed Plan

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EarthComm World

Day-Long Workshop: Detailed Plan

Stage Activity Time

Introductions of facilitators

Logistical check (parking, restrooms, etc.)

Overview of morning, mentioning the central questions given below

Introductions of participants
Introductions of general purpose: To get to know EarthComm

The central questions in this workshop format are:

  • What is EarthComm?
  • How might your teaching change (or not) when you use EarthComm?
  • How might students' learning change when they use EarthComm?
  • What are your goals coming into the workshop?
  • What questions do you have coming in?
  • What goals do you have for an Earth science curriculum?

You may want to use a "speaking stick" method here (see "Techniques for Group Dynamics") so that the etiquette of open sharing without interruption is established. During this session, write down what is offered without comment, but make mental notes as to what issues will and will not be addressed in the workshop as planned. Consider possible modifications. For those whose ideas will not be addressed, it would be worthwhile to discuss this with them privately, such as during a break, and make suggestions as to how they can reach those goals in other ways. The purpose of doing this now is that it allows you to have a sense of what the teachers are looking for, so that you can adjust as possible, and it gets them talking.

Handout "Overview of EarthComm"

Briefly describe the development process and tell what role, if any, the workshop leaders have had in that process.

Overhead: Development Timeline



EarthComm "Goals and Expectations"

End the discussion of general goals by relating some of what has been said to the intended goals of EarthComm as given in "Overview of EarthComm," which may be handed out separately or found in the front matter of any teacher's edition.

Student Expectations

Teacher Expectations


Begin Volcanoes chapter:

  • Present opening for Volcanoes
  • Volcanoes and your community
  • Chapter Challenge
  • Expectations

Initiate Activity 1: Where are the volcanoes?

  • Briefly locate where this activity fits in the modular/chapter scheme
  • Establish groups, either by counting off or by seating, hand out materials.
  • Allow participants to begin working on the activity, but tell them that they will have only ten minutes or so to work.

"Modules & Chapters"

Introduce 5-E model

5-E Lesson Cycle

Discuss Volcano activity 1 in terms of the 5-E model


  • Getting Started


  • Investigate


  • Think It Over


  • Find Out More
  • Inquiring Further


  • Applying and Understanding What You Have Learned
  • Preparing the Chapter Report

Discuss how chapter elements contribute to the 5-E model  


  • Chapter Introduction
  • Chapter Challenge
  • Activities in chapter


  • Completing the Chapter Report
Handout: "EarthComm Curriculum Design
Initiate Activity 2: Volcanic Landforms

Ask participants to consider the elements of the 5-E model as they proceed, as well as the goals and expectations that have been discussed.

This is a longer activity. Taking the break at the end of this will allow for those who do not finish at the same time as others to complete their work.
Break (15 minutes) 1:30
Ask participants to refer to "EarthComm Big Ideas," "Goals and Expectations for Teachers," and "Goals and Expectations for Students" as they return from break with the intent of discussing which of them the two activities they have done address. 1:45

At the conclusion of the break, discuss the first two activities in terms of the "Big Ideas," and "Goals and Expectations."

Keep this short. It is primarily intended to get them focused on those elements of the program, there will obviously be some areas not addressed by these two activities, as well as several that are.

Note: If available, this would be an opportune time to discuss the relationship between EarthComm and any state or local standards.

Overhead: EarthComm Big Ideas

Student Expectations

Teacher Expectations

Engage Begin discussion of EarthComm Key Concepts

Explain that EarthComm differs from other Earth science curricula (See "Key Concepts".) It is important to understand those differences to appreciate the potential of the curriculum.
Explore Discuss how each of the first two key concepts relates to the activities that have been done. In that these two are more familiar, the teachers are likely to be able to present many ideas.

Relevance Chapter Challenge relates to impact on student Community Activity 1 in particular relates content to community

Community, as it is used in EarthComm may take some development. Use overheads showing overlapping biological and political communities to emphasize that the concept can be defined in multiple ways. (See overheads section for "Nebraska Surface Cover and Counties" image, as well as instructions for how to create that image for any location in the U.S.)

STOP HERE for a moment. The introduction of Systems will take some time, and is outlined in more detail.
Explain When the ideas of relevance and community are brought together, they call for a different treatment of content than is typical in many Earth science curricula. The overlapping and shifting boundaries of what is considered a "community" lends itself to a systems-based approach to Earth science content.

Discuss the concept of systems in general. The text and activities given in this manual (see also the "Additional Workshop Activities" section) describe the general components of systems using several examples. Go over these as necessary and as time allows. In EarthComm there is usually not explicit treatment of the components of systems, but for the teachers to understand them strengthens their ability to make use of that aspect of the program.
Elaborate Show the overhead "Earth Systems" and discuss some of the interactions that participants already know of between the spheres. Have participants start working through the third activity, "Volcanic Hazards: Flows" be done in conjunction with this discussion.

Overhead: Earth Systems

Have the participants consider ways in which different Earth systems (spheres) interact to create flows, and are affected by flows (note that the whole notion of "hazards" is dependent on the idea that some part of the biosphere is being negatively affected by some other sphere.) It is more important that the participants make the connection with systems than that they finish this activity.

Some examples:

  • cryosphere interacts with geosphere in generation of lahars
  • geosphere, topography in particular, affects hydrosphere in terms of where pyroclastic flows and lahars actually go
  • geosphere affects biosphere as homes and living things are destroyed by pyroclastic flows and lahars

In groups of four, assign one participant in each group to read through one of the four remaining activities in the chapter and prepare to discuss it with respect to how it illustrates the interactions of Earth systems. Provide two to three minutes for reading and discussion, then ask a member of each group to share for about one minute. When groups are finished, they can begin considering what students might create in response to the chapter challenge.

If time allows, and if materials such as geologic maps and rocks are available, they can be handed out and participants can work through activity 5, "Volcanic History Of Your Community." Many people are surprised to find that igneous rock types, or sedimentary rocks with volcanic origin (e.g. tuff) exist near their community. Again, the concept of community may be defined more or less broadly here. Examples of student work will be shared in the afternoon as assessment is discussed.

Hand out the essay "Why Use An Earth Systems Approach?" and ask participants to read it during the lunch hour.

This section of the morning is intentionally flexible so that it can be made more or less structured in response to the group, and time.

(Note that the fourth key concept, inquiry, has not been addressed yet. That will follow lunch.)

Handout: Why Use An Earth Systems Approach?

Closure for morning

  • Summary of morning
  • Overview of afternoon and expected afternoon start time
  • Checkpoint (see "Techniques for Group Dynamics")
Lunch 3:00

The afternoon will focus on two important elements of EarthComm, the key concept of inquiry and how it is incorporated into the program, and assessment.

Open afternoon section

Go over Checkpoints and discuss how issues will be addressed

Review the three key concepts addressed thus far: relevance, community, and systems.

Show the images provided in this manual "Lancaster County, NE and Associated Watersheds," and "Nebraska Watersheds In The Missouri River Basin and Counties." Similar images for any location in the United States can be generated using the steps given in the Overheads section of this manual. In viewing these images, the concept of community is readily apparent. Attention often turns to community as a political concept, so Lincoln is seen as a community within Lancaster County. It is also readily apparent that both the city and county are influenced by the interactions of the hydrosphere and the geosphere as they form watersheds. The same can be said of the second image, but on a larger scale.

Overhead: Lancaster County, NE and Associated Watersheds

Overhead: Nebraska Watersheds In The Missouri River Basin, And Counties


Both the community concept and the system concept are open ended in that they do not have a single correct definition. This feature can be used to open a discussion about definitions taking on meaning within the context of specific investigation, which leads into the final key concept of inquiry. Ask them to consider the role of inquiry in the activities that follow.


Initiate chapter 3 in the Earth's Natural Resources module, "Water Resources and Your Community" by reading Getting Started, Scenario, Chapter Challenge, and Assessment Criteria. Invite the participants to scan ahead as the Assessment Criteria suggest.

Note: Access the data for Activity 1 prior to the workshop and have the tables available for use by the participants.

Pace the groups through the first two activities in this chapter.

Note: Other chapters may be used here. It would be good to learn of local interests prior to the workshop and arranging to do chapters that suit those interests.


Show the image "A Model of Scientific Inquiry" and discuss how it is like and unlike similar models of "the scientific method" that they have encountered. Discuss the strengths and limitations of such models. You may want to read the quote from the AAAS given at the beginning of this manual:

Scientific inquiry is not easily described apart from the context of particular investigations. There simply is no fixed set of steps that scientists always follow, no one path that leads them unerringly to scientific knowledge. (P.4)

Overhead: A Model of Scientific Inquiry

Discuss the kinds of skills that the participants know are used in inquiry.

Overhead: Science Process Skills

Handout: "Correlation to the National Science Education Standards"


Share and discuss the "Outcomes of Inquiry-Based Science Education"

Overhead: "Outcomes of Inquiry-Based Science Education"


Have participants return to their groups and discuss the role of inquiry in the two activities done so far. Some ideas that might be shared include:

In activity 1, the students were using primary data to draw conclusions about their community's water use and sources of water. The conclusions that they reach regarding the contributions of different aspects of the water cycle will be unique for their community, which suggests that this is an authentic inquiry.

The authenticity of the inquiry is even more pronounced in "Applying What You Have Learned" section. There are many skills called on in generating a response.

In activity 2, a model is used. This model is a particularly strong illustration of a system. By combining this model with the information they gained in activity 1, the students can begin to draw more specific conclusions about their community.


While both of the prior activities were inquiries of a sort, they did not involve the students in actually carrying out the plan by which data were obtained (other than direct measurement of the building, if that was actually done.) In activity 3, the students do devise such a plan, and are able to carry it out. In the limitations of a workshop it is not likely that groups can complete this plan, but it would be possible for students.

Activity 4 can be completed quickly, assuming the data are available.


Break (as convenient)


Activity 5 and activity 6 each require some preparation, but are worth the time. Each can be used to summarize the key concepts that have been discussed with respect to EarthComm. These two activities also provide ample opportunity to discuss issues of managing hands-on inquiry. Safety considerations can also be explored. In that the teachers are experienced in these areas, these discussions should be largely based on their experience and expertise. The handout "Managing Collaborative Group Learning" addresses some additional intricacies of the social dynamics of group work.

Handout: "Managing Collaborative Group Learning"


Initiate discussion of assessment. Examples of student work from the chapters done in the workshop can be shared. Discussions of the rubric provided in the teacher's edition for each chapter could follow. It is important to discuss the subjective character of project-based assessment. Each teacher will have to make expectations clear to students for each Chapter Report. The rubric provides a guide, and opportunities for defining expectations can be discussed in conjunction with each activity.

Provide examples of chapter tests to demonstrate the availability of traditional assessments in EarthComm that can be used as local contexts demand.


Begin closure

Ask participants to help organize the room.

Return to goals and expectations lists made in the morning. Discuss issues that may not have been covered through the day. However, many such issues are likely to be related to local conditions, for which the workshop leaders can offer ideas, but not hard answers.

Review the "Big Ideas" and "Module and Chapter" outline of EarthComm. Again, discuss how this relates to local standards and curriculum guidelines.

Return central questions in this workshop:

  • What is EarthComm?
  • How might your teaching change (or not) when you use EarthComm?
  • How might students' learning change when they use EarthComm?

Ask for additional questions.

Hand out the workshop evaluation material.


Thank participants and close.


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AGI's professional development programs for teachers are supported by generous contributions from corporate contributors of the American Geosciences Institute Foundation, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation, and ChevronTexaco.