A challenge for Earth Science Week

A post by Anne JeffersonHere in the US, we’re celebrating Earth Science Week and the lead-up to the Geological Society of America meeting. What better time to inspire the next generation of earth scientists and earth science aficionados by helping make sure that good, hands-on earth science education reaches all of America’s school children, regardless of socio-economic standing?
I’ve picked a five great projects from the Geobloggers DonorsChoose challenge that represent a spread of Earth Science disciplines, a diversity of student ages and geographies, and the many wonderful ways that teachers are trying to make Earth Science relevant to their students’ lives. In honour of Earth Science week, I’m challenging you to help me fully fund one of these projects each day this week. It’s an ambitious goal, but one I think that we can achieve if we work together, twist the arms of our friends and colleagues, and spread the world through blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.
In reward for your generous donations, for each project that we fund by the end of the week, the readers of Highly Allochthonous can request a post topic for Chris or I to write. Want to know more about paleomagnetic reversals in the Proterozoic? Or vanishing groundwater in India? Luscious forests above the Arctic Circle or the glaciers of ancient Australia? Here’s your chance to set us to the homework of answering the earth science question that you’ve been pondering.
It is Monday, so we’ll start out easy, roll up our sleeves, and contribute $108 to make water quality test kits available to high school students in Louisiana, through a project called “Healthy Water?.” The teacher writes a plaintive plea for help, describing a classroom barren of supplies and students who’ve gotten to 11th grade without ever getting to do a lab:

I want to capture and rope back in the lost scientist in the class of 2011. I teach environmental science for eleventh graders. It is a mixed class of special education students and middle to low achieving students that are not expected to attend college. My school is rural, and a high-need community. Most parents have only a high school education and do not expect to send their children to college. The students tend to accept this course of life without challenge. However, I would like to inspire the students to see there are exciting things they can do and pursue in science and around them. I also would like them to leave class with an awareness of their environment around them and how to protect it.
These students have not had much hands on science due to lack of funds in school. Most will have their very first lab experience this year. They do not understand many scientific terms because they have not had any visual or tactile experience. Also, they do not see the need to become involved in it because they do not know how it effects their life.
I need the six water quality test kits to give them hands-on experience testing, recording, and analyzing the water they live with. This helps them to see the different properties. They learn how it is tested. They learn what determines water to be safe and clean. Students will know first hand local water quality. It teaches them value and how should they treat it and protect it. It teaches them that data is important. Finally if shows them how to do a real scientific investigation.

I’ve been in high school environmental science classrooms like the one the teacher describes. If you give the students something to do and data to collect, they’ll do an enthusiastic job of it, just because they are so glad to be away from the sad norm of textbook lessons. Often these students are enrolled in environmental science, because they have to fulfill a last science credit hour and they’ve been tracked into a class that’s not part of the traditional college prep curriculum. That’s why it’s so important that we give these students a chance to do hands-on science and see how it connects to their lives – because this is the last science class most of them will ever take. This is our last chance to get them engaged with the physical and ecological world around them. Please help us get water test kits for the students in Louisiana.
If water test kits aren’t your thing, look for tomorrow’s oceanography project, or Wednesday’s meteorology project. Thursday’s finally the day for rocks and more rocks, and Friday is going off with a boom. Remember, while we’ll be highlighting one project each day, all projects are part of the challenge and for each one completed by the end of the week, Chris or I will write a post on the topic of your choosing. Don’t like one of the five I’ve picked, then take a look at the rest of the Geobloggers Giving Kids the Earth giving page and find the one the best suits your fancy.

Categories: by Anne, general science, science education

Comments (4)

  1. Robert says:

    There is something very wrong here.
    You can buy the same water quality test kit at Ace Hardware for $12.99 instead of $35.99 and you also don’t need to pay $21.50 vendor shipping charges, $3.24 third-party processing fee, and $9.00 for postage/processing.
    So the cost for six kits is $77.94 instead of $249.68 (not including sales tax) which means that donors helping this project are wasting $171.74 needlessly.

  2. Robert, you bring up a very good point. Projects are more expensive to run through DonorsChoose than if local volunteers or donors simply supplied the money or materials to the classroom in the first place. But, the teachers are asking for help via DonorsChoose precisely because they aren’t getting that support from their local communities. DonorsChoose incurs costs to coordinate the logistics of each project, advertise them on the web, get thank yous to the donors, and pay their staff. DonorsChoose has preferred vendors with whom I believe they have negotiated discounts on items and shipping. (In my mind, the only real question is why is Carolina Biological Supply allegedly charging so excessively for that water test kit?)
    The shipping and processing fees are a necessary evil of supporting projects long-distance rather than going over to your nearest high poverty school, asking the teachers what they need, buying it, and directly handing it to them. That sort of outreach and philanthropy is certainly the best thing we could be doing, but if we are short on time or comfortably isolated from high poverty schools, then DonorsChoose is a great second choice for helping kids who deserve good educations.

  3. Wow. Looks like Chris or I will owe you a post. Thanks for helping that teacher get her lab supplies.

  4. Stefaan Vande Walle says:

    Hello,
    I’m coordinating a science education project at the regional teacher training college in Kandal, Cambodia. We collect and develop science teaching material and train teacher trainers in student centered methodologies. We focus on low-cost teaching materials for science, going from plastic bottles up to water quality testing kits such as those described above. People wishing more information or willing to visit can contact me by e-mail (stefaan.vandewalle at gmail.com).