Try Geoscience Teaching Materials from the NSF MARGINS Program

published Feb 23, 2010 4:35pm

Primary researchers together with geoscience education specialists from across the country have developed a set of more than 30 undergraduate-level mini-lessons based on findings and data gathered by the NSF MARGINS program. The mini-lessons use cutting-edge resources and range widely in topic and style – from lecture segments that can be easily inserted into an existing lecture, to full laboratory exercises where students apply newly learned concepts. The MARGINS Education group is now eager to have NAGT and other faculty test and evaluate the mini-lessons in their classrooms.

The MARGINS program was founded in 1999 in recognition that many of Earth's most significant problems straddle the boundary between ocean and continent,. With a mission to understand the evolution of continental margins the four initiatives of the MARGINS program study continental rifting and basin formation; subduction zone geodynamical structure, the cycling of geochemical elements, and the cause and nature of subduction zone earthquakes; and, the movement of sediment eroded from the continental surface through deposition on ocean floor over multiple time scales. Dozens of field programs over the last decade to the MARGINS focus sites have collected a wealth of data leading to transformative results that must become part of the basic curriculum of modern geoscience programs

The mini-lessons were designed at workshops in April 2006 and May 2009. Most incorporate GeoMapApp (a free data visualization and exploration tool) or the petrology/sediment databases PetDB and SedDB. Links to these free tools are found at the MARGINS Data Portal. In several mini-lessons, GeoMapApp is used to view topography, bathymetry and cross sections, and for spatial visualization of geophysical and geochemical data. An upcoming webinar on 30th July is planned to offer further instruction in the use of GeoMapApp in the classroom. More information on the webinar can be found at

The MARGINS mini-lessons are organized by topic, type (lab vs lecture), level, and content area. A two-line description aids selection, and a more thorough summary covers learning goals, context for use, teaching tips, and ideas for learning assessment. Some mini-lessons are PowerPoint presentations that can be inserted into an appropriate lecture, others are lab exercises where students must be given some guidance in using tools or other resources. An assessment form (MARGINS Teaching Activity Observation Form) is used to evaluate the effectiveness of the mini-lesson in a classroom setting.

The MARGINS Education group invites NAGT newsletter readers to test and evaluate the MARGINS mini-lesson collection. As you ramp up for Fall 2009 courses, scan the list and try one or more mini-lessons in your class. Feedback from a wide range of geoscience faculty will help us to polish, focus, fill gaps, and improve our ability to utilize MARGINS research concepts, resources and data effectively in the classroom.