Friday, December 12, 2008

What does a scientifically literate person need to know about the geosciences?

What, exactly, are the earth sciences about, anyway? Even using the name "earth sciences" is a way of waffling - geology, geophysics, and geochemistry obviously fit, but what about paleontology, the oceans, climate, the atmosphere, other planets...? I don't have a clear answer for myself (although I should - I teach the only college-level Earth Science course that some future K-6 teachers take), but NSF has brought together a group of earth scientists to figure it out. They've put together a draft document, opened it for one round of comments in October, and now (starting December 15) they are looking for comments on the final draft. The draft itself (and links to a page for commenting) is available here: The Earth Science Literacy Initiative.

Here are the nine Big Ideas that they have proposed:

1. Earth science explores our planet.
2. Earth is 4.6 billion years old.
3. Earth is a complex system of interactions between rock, water, air, and life.
4. Earth is a continuously changing planet.
5. Earth is a water planet.
6. Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.
7. Humans depend on Earth for resources.
8. Humans are threatened by Earth's natural hazards.
9. Humans have become a significant agent of change on Earth.

The meat of the document comes in the supporting statements within each Big Idea. Check it out and comment (starting Monday).

There will also be three sessions at AGU where you can discuss it:

Monday 2:10 - 2:25 pm, Room MC 3011:
Oral Session ED13D: Earth Science Literacy: Building Community Consensus

Tuesday 8:00 am, Hall D:
Poster ED21A-0601: Earth Science Literacy: Big Ideas and Supporting Concepts

Thursday 6:15 pm, Moscone West 3005
Open Town Hall Meeting: Developing a Framework for Earth Science Literacy

(H/T Barb Tewksbury.)

1 comment:

hypocentre said...

I think Bill Bryson did a pretty good job of this already in A Short History of Nearly Everything