Partner Profile: Earth Connections

Category: Uncategorized

Through service-based learning, offering students the chance to learn while making an impact

The geosciences are projected to have a workforce deficit in the coming years—that is, more job opportunities than people to fill them. At the same time, there are a plethora of communities facing challenges that could benefit from geoscience tools and data.

Earth Connections is an innovative national initiative tackling both issues. By linking geoscience education and community service, the program charts educational pathways that attract students to the geosciences and prepare them for fulfilling and impactful careers.

Though the effort is national in scale, its activities are rooted in the local. In each local node, project leaders focus on establishing strong partnerships to tap into existing regional activities. Together with these partners, they find ways for students to actively contribute to community needs in sustained, meaningful ways.

“Program partners and regional alliances work together to create locally contextualized educational pathways from middle school through college and into the local workforce,” explains Lead PI Cathy Manduca, director of the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College. “A central aspect of these pathways is linking together learning geoscience with the opportunity to use that learning in service to the local community.”

The program currently has three pilots underway in Atlanta, Ga. (focusing on water contamination and flooding issues), San Bernardino, Calif. (focusing on earthquake resilience) and Oklahoma (focusing on earthquakes, energy production and Tribal communities).

TEX Director Raj Pandya serves as a liaison for the San Bernardino Alliance and a Co-Investigator on the overall project. “It is great to be able to take what we’ve learned from our TEX projects and share that with educators and students, and to learn from them,” says Pandya. “Working with the education community is an important part of TEX’s mission to promote and advance community science.”

 

Connect with Earth Connections

Earth Connections participants will share experiences and outcomes at the Earth Educators Rendezvous on July 16-20 in Lawrence, Kan. The event is a fantastic venue to learn about new teaching approaches, get involved in research programs, prepare for an academic career or discuss teaching and learning challenges in the classroom.

In particular, Manduca along with colleagues from partnering organizations will lead a forum titled Moving from Learning Opportunities to Learning Pathways: Guiding students toward geoscience careers and a workshop on Supporting Successful Transitions: Principles for students of all ages. Most of the Earth Connections team will also be part of a special Earth Connections Session.

Registration is open now (earlybird rates end May 1), and poster submissions are still being accepted. In particular, Manduca says organizers encourage posters featuring examples of educational pathways or pathway elements, or examples of programs that could be adapted by regional alliances to create pathway elements.

 

Building Momentum

Earth Connections has joined forces with three other pilot programs to submit a proposal for a full INCLUDES Alliance that scales up capacity to develop local pathways that link geoscience learning to community engagement. The goal of this effort is to simultaneously diversify and broaden participation in geoscience and build geoscientific knowledge and capacity in local communities. Collaborators propose to use a collective impact alliance approach that brings together regional groups and national programs to rapidly scale up pathway development across the nation.

 

 

 

Sarah Wilkins editor