In the Trenches - October 2017

Exploring the Critical Zone, Earth's Outer Skin

Volume 7, Number 4

In This Issue

Online Supplements

This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. Members can follow the "Read more" links below to access full versions of the articles online. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches, join NAGT

Letter from the Guest Editor: Teaching About the Critical Zone

Don Haas, Paleontological Research Institution and Museum of the Earth

This issue of In the Trenches explores the richly interdisciplinary concept of the Critical Zone (CZ). Earth's Critical Zone extends from the top of the tree canopy to the base of the groundwater lens. Nearly all terrestrial life inhabits the CZ. It is a zone of important physical and chemical transformations, the place where rainwater becomes drinking water, and the source of the overwhelming majority of our food. The NSF-funded Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) have engaged in multidisciplinary study of the CZ for nearly a decade. Read more...

Developing a New Transdisciplinary Curriculum in Critical Zone Science

Tim White, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State University

During the past decade, CZ science has arisen as a new realm of Earth surface and environmental sciences. The development of a new scientific discipline requires educating early career scientists in that discipline — thus CZO education and outreach has focused on the Earth surface and environmental sciences community and on graduate students and postdoctoral researchers already focused on CZ science. Additionally, progress has been made in developing formal educational curricula for university and secondary education audiences. A description of two initiatives follows, one for undergraduate students and another aimed at teachers engaged in graduate work. Read more...

Explore the Critical Zone with the CZO Resource Collection

Alexandra Moore, Paleontological Research Institution (PRI); Don Haas, PRI, David Lubinski, University of Colorado at Boulder; and Robert M. Ross, PRI

The goal of the CZO education program is to use the observatories as a network of living laboratories with research opportunities, professional development, teaching resources, and public outreach within a broad spectrum of media and pedagogies for learners from K-to-Gray in both formal and informal settings. Members of the network have designed online courses, run workshops for both students and teachers, and created digital media resources, films, animated features, field projects and in-class activities. Working together, the nine CZOs and the National Office have the opportunity to leverage these efforts ten-fold. Read more...

Getting Students Jazzed About Critical Zone: Engaging Students in Authentic Inquiry Through Data Jam

Steven McGee, The Learning Partnership and Northwestern University; and Noelia Báez Rodríguez, the Luquillo LTER Schoolyard program, Puerto Rico

Critical Zone (CZ) science provides a rich context for middle and high school students in Puerto Rico to investigate their own questions about a recent drought and historical storm events. The Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) are part of a growing trend in environmental science to collect long-term data about environmental phenomena, which has led to a tremendous explosion of publicly available datasets on all facets of environmental science. This explosion of "Big Data" is rapidly transforming the nature of research in the environmental sciences. Read more...

Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Awards for 2017

Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Awards (OEST) are given for "exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the Earth sciences at the pre-college level." Any teacher or K-12 educator who covers a significant amount of Earth science content with his or her students is eligible. Ten national finalists are selected, one from each NAGT regional section. Some sections also recognize state winners. The OEST Awards program is designed to identify excellence in teaching, recognize and reward excellence in teaching, stimulate higher levels of teaching performance, establish NAGT as a strong support organization for pre-college education, and, via active statewide and sectional programs, build a solid state, regional, and national liaison with administrators of pre-college Earth science education.

Read all about the 2017 winners on the NAGT OEST Awards webpage

NAGT, GSA, CUR, Totten, & JGE Education Division Awards for 2017

NAGT Awards for 2017:

The Miner Award, given for outstanding contributions to the stimulation of interest in the Earth sciences, was awarded to Katherine Ellins of the University of Texas, Austin.

The Shea Award, given to honor individuals for exceptional writing or editing of Earth science materials of interest to the general public and/or teachers of Earth science, was awarded to Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University.

The Christman Award, given in recognition of those who have provided distinguished service to NAGT at the national and/or section level, was awarded to Gene Pearson of the University of the Pacific.

The Stout Professional Development Grants were awarded to the following:

Jessica Cruz of Modesto Junior College, to fund field study in the Pacific Northwest

Janet Davis of Heartland Community College, to attend the 2017 Midwest Environmental Education Conference

Peter Ower of Wilmette Junior High School, to attend the Climate Generation Summer Institute for Climate Change Education

Journal of Geoscience Education Awards for 2017:

The JGE Award for Outstanding Paper was awarded to Kathryn A. Stoffer of the University of Florida for her paper "When a Picture Isn't Worth 1000 Words," JGE: August 2016, Vol. 64, No. 3, pp. 231-241

The JGE Award for Outstanding Reviewer was awarded to Kim Kastens of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

Geological Society of America Awards for 2017:

The Briggs Award, GSA's award for excellence in Earth science teaching by undergraduate faculty who have been teaching full-time for 10 years of fewer, was awarded to Laura Lukes of George Mason University.

The Totten Geoscience Education Research Awards, given in recognition of outstanding research emerging from the geoscience education, geocognition, or related fields, was awarded to Emily Geraghty (faculty awardee) of the Rocky Mountain College and to Peggy McNeal (student awardee), a PhD candidate at Western Michigan University.

CUR Awards for 2017:

The Geo-CUR Award, given in recognition of outstanding undergraduate research mentoring, was awarded to C. Brannon Andersen of Furman University.

ONLINE EXTRA: Bringing the Outdoors In: Application of Hydrogeology Education Tools

Jennifer Z Williams, Pennsylvania State University; Sharon Dykhoff, Dominion Christian School; Jonathan Pollak, Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc.; and Susan L. Brantley, Pennsylvania State University

Eighth and ninth grade students in the TeenShale Network explore big data, their local environment and impacts, and the potential impacts of hydrofracking in their communities. Students engage in geologic fieldwork with scientists from Pennsylvania's Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory, deploying sensors in streams. They work with their own data as well as data collected by others and use the freely available HydroClient software to analyze data and build data literacy. Read more...

ONLINE EXTRA: Cultivating a Sense of Place in the Southern Piedmont Using Esri Story Maps

Katherine P. O'Neill and Jane F. Rice, Roanoke College; and Daniel deB. Richter, Duke University

Esri Story Maps are used as frameworks for investigating at the Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory in South Carolina's Southern Piedmont region. Centuries of human activities have degraded the water and eroded the soil, leading to lower agricultural productivity and the abandonment of farming in much of the region. While forests have regenerated, ecosystem function and water quality impacts remain. Story Maps, a free software package for creating multimedia representations of place, is used to unearth this legacy. Students engage with environmental narratives through this work, in ways that can serve as models for others to uncover the story of their own places. Read more...

ONLINE EXTRA: Exploiting Weathering and Erosion for Authentic Argument and Problem-Based Learning Activities

Christopher Roemmele, West Chester University and Steven Smith, Purdue University

Examples of weathering and erosion are explored in three teaching activities: analysis of popular advertising for products and services seemingly unrelated to erosion and deposition; analyzing erosion hazards related to developing a new exercise path on or near school grounds; and developing a sales pitch for a property based on its geologic attributes. Read more...

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Web Features

NAGT, its members, and its sponsored projects have produced a number of resources related to the topics addressed in this issue.

Critical Zone Science InTeGrate Course»

This 15-week, seven-module course from InTeGrate, also featured on the Teach the Earth portal, introduces and examines the Critical Zone (CZ), Earth's permeable layer that extends from the top of vegetation to the bottom of the fresh groundwater zone. This course makes use of authentic and credible geoscience data such as CZO data and Ameriflux network data. It also promotes systems thinking by incorporating examples and activities that demonstrate the connection between water, air, soil, and organisms in biogeochemical processes within the CZ.

Teaching Activity: Integrated Critical Zone Project »

This teaching activity, developed by participants in an On the Cutting Edge workshop, offers a way to assemble information about geology, hydrogeology, and soils into a coherent whole in a way that may otherwise not happen in any one class. The "critical zone" concept ties the pieces together.

How to read elemental soil profiles to investigate the biogeochemical processes in Critical Zone»

In this teaching activity, developed by participants in an On the Cutting Edge workshop, students use elemental chemistry data in a soil profile to explore major biogeochemical processes that dominate in critical zone. Data will be provided, and students calculate and graph the mass transfer coefficients as a function of depth using Excel. Based on these plots, student make generalized statements about how different elements behave in this soil profile and what processes dominate, e.g., depletion by rock-water interaction, addition by dust inputs, elemental loading by human activities, etc.

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