The President's Mid-Year Report, May 2011
Janis D. Treworgy, president of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, is chair of the Department of Geology at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.
(Published in July 2011 issue of In the Trenches)
The Executive Committee of NAGT met in April, midway through our fiscal year, to review the financial status of NAGT, set and approve next year's budget and review our various projects. The short summary is that we are an active society that is experiencing a continued decline in membership at a time when there is a growing need for the geoscience community to present a unified front in the development of geoscience literacy among students, science teachers (K-16) and decision-makers at all levels. This is a time when geoscientists should be pooling our resources where we can make a difference. I think NAGT can make and is making that difference. Your membership in NAGT helps pool resources. We ask for your help in spreading the word about NAGT. Here are some reasons you can use to encourage others to join.
NAGT, JGE, and ITT. NAGT is the largest and most active society in the world that is focused on geoscience education. For nearly 60 years we have published our own peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Geoscience Education (JGE) that covers geoscience education research and curriculum ideas. As of this year JGE is now primarily available online and is therefore more accessible to members, including our growing international membership. This new four-color magazine, In The Trenches (ITT), which replaces JGE in your mailbox, includes articles and curricular ideas and activities focusing on current hot topics, such as climate change and teaching in the field. We thank Dr. Julie Libarkin for shepherding the JGE through this transition as its editor and Dr. David Steer for conceiving and editing ITT. We are pleased to announce that Dr. Kristen St. John will succeed Julie as editor of JGEbeginning in January.
2YC Division and Adjunct Faculty. The Executive Committee has proposed adding to NAGT's structure divisions that focus on a professional interest within the geosciences. This proposed change to the Bylaws, which awaits a 60-day member notification period, was triggered by the desire of a group of two-year college (2YC) faculty to become a subset of an existing society. Their desire is to develop a peer organization that focuses on their needs for professional development, curriculum development, networking and general support. The 2YC group will be our first division. Along with this, we have added a membership category for adjunct faculty, who commonly teach at one or more community colleges with little support or benefits; they will have a reduced rate. Why are we reaching out to our 2YC colleagues? As you may be aware, they teach the geosciences to a large and diverse audience. They not only contribute to the Earth science literacy of the general public, they also teach many pre-service K-12 teachers.
Financial Report. Thanks to the long time generosity of many NAGT members, NAGT endowed funds now produce significant income. Endowed funds supporting field camp scholarships provide over $7,000 annually and the NAGT endowment provides $20,000 towards annual operating expenses. To ensure that NAGT continues to provide excellent programming and services as well as remain a strong advocate for high-quality geoscience education, we are considering ways to increase membership. We are also considering ways to increase library subscriptions and develop new revenue streams, including the addition of a book review page to our website on which publishers could advertise and publication of a new lab manual and/or special paper. One way NAGT can develop new programs and income streams and support the work of our many volunteers is by increasing the number of hours provided by our part-time (11.5 percent) executive director.
Distinguished Speakers Program. NAGT has had an active distinguished speakers program that sends experienced and innovative geoscience educators to colleges and universities that solicit speakers for talks and/or workshops for faculty on current directions in geoscience education. We are putting this program on hold for a year to restructure it. We welcome your input. What would help you the most?
On The Cutting Edge. One of the most effective NAGT-sponsored programs is On The Cutting Edge—Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty. This program, which provides pedagogy and content workshops for faculty, has transformed the way the geosciences are taught, primarily at the undergraduate level, by individual faculty members as well as whole departments. Currently supported by NSF, the program has two more years of full funding and two years of reduced funding at the 50 percent level. NAGT would like to be involved in sustaining the program into the future as so many of us have benefited from it.
Other NAGT-Sponsored Programs include Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) Pathway, Teach the Earth: A SERC Portal for Geoscience Faculty, USGS/NAGT Cooperative Field Training Program, Geoscience Teachers in Parks, and more. Check out our website to see the full range: http://nagt.org/nagt/programs/sponsored_prog.html. We also give field camp scholarships to students every year. This year 18 recipients were selected out of a pool of 75 applicants.
National Activities. NAGT Executive Committee members as well as others of you in the field are participating in focus meetings and programs with other societies at a national level. Several members participated in AGI's Earth Systems Science Education Summit last year in Houston to address key issues facing K-12 geoscience education. The meeting resulted in five chaired working groups and a list of action items, which included reviewing the draft version of the new national science education standards and providing feedback.
NAGT is one of 11 STEM societies working with Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to better prepare students for the realworld issues related to energy, water, air quality and climate change in the STEM disciplines. The focus of this project is to develop in our STEM courses the concept of sustainability by giving students opportunities to consider choices that can help solve societal problems.
NAGT is making a difference by building geoscience literacy through geoscience education. That's why you are a member. We need your support to attract more members and increase the support for the vital role that NAGT is playing. Consider encouraging your colleagues and your students to join NAGT if they care about geoscience education. Show them our website (www.nagt.org) for some additional talking points. We welcome your ideas and your continued support.