Workshop participant Tsing Bardin from RAFT models glacier movement with glacier goo

Workshop participant Tsing Bardin from RAFT models glacier movement with glacier goo. Photo: Bethany Adamec

For the past two days, the AGU NESTA 2011 Geophysical Information For Teachers (GIFT) workshop has been taking place at the Marriott Marquis. This year, the annual event was attended by about 40 K-12 formal and informal educators. The unique format of the workshop consisted of five teams of scientists and education specialists who presented an introduction to their research and then led an interactive hands-on activity that the teachers can take directly to their classrooms. Activities were aligned with standards and also adaptable for a range of subjects, teaching styles, and grade levels. As one teacher put it, “What works in one classroom doesn’t necessarily work in another. You guys give us this great basic thing and then we go to town”.

Twenty four teams of presenters applied to present at this year’s workshop, and through a peer review process five were chosen. Topics shared this year ranged from clouds to volcanoes to tsunamis to glaciers, with global climate change issues woven amongst several of the presentations. The presenters were leaders in their fields, and included those who issue tsunami warnings for all of North America and track volcanic ash for commercial flights. In addition to the five main presentations, other Earth and space science teams presented their materials at two lunchtime share-a-thons. The workshop concluded with a discussion of issues facing today’s science teachers and classrooms and touched on concerns such as earth science being overlooked in many school districts, the challenge of assessment-driven curricula, and the ever-present need for teacher professional development.

Materials from the workshop, including video, will be available through Windows to the Universe and the AGU education page. Thus, we at AGU education hope that GIFT 2011 will have a wide reach beyond just the teachers who were in the room.

–          Bethany Holm Adamec, Coordinator, Education and Public Outreach