ESTA (Earth Science Teachers' Association
PESGB-funded activities: improving Earth Science education in schools and colleges.
This brief report outlines how, with the aid of PESGB funds, the Earth Science Teachers’ Association (ESTA) has been able to undertake various projects during 2010/11 to improve Earth Science education in schools and colleges. We hope that this report will give stakeholders (the membership of PESGB and ESTA) a sense of how important PESGB-funding is to ESTA’s activities and to demonstrate to PESGB’s stakeholders how their funds have been invested.
Background to the PESGB-funded ESTA projects
ESTA’s main aim is to encourage and support the teaching of Earth Sciences, whether as a single subject such as Geology, or as part of other course such as Science or Geography. ESTA as a registered charity has been helping teachers at all levels throughout the UK for over 40 years.
The association is run by a team of unwaged volunteers and each year publishes two newsletters (ESTA News) as well as two magazines (Teaching Earth Sciences). These publications include articles on classroom, laboratory and field teaching; give details of new teaching resources, curriculum updates and website reviews and list dates of CPD courses, lectures and field excursions. The association also organises an Annual Course and Conference, provides curriculum support and advice for teachers and maintains its own a website: http://www.esta-uk.net/
ESTA first contacted PESGB in 2003/4 with proposals to sponsor the association’s Annual Course and Conference and to develop web-based resources for use by teachers in schools and colleges. PESGB’s generous financial support for these original proposals and, over the last seven years, its continued financial support for the association’s Annual Course and Conference have helped the association widen and strengthen its contribution to Earth Science education at different levels.
Project developments, 2010/11
Three PESGB-funded projects were either completed or developed over the last year. These are the ESTA Annual Course and Conferences (2010 and 2011) and the project: ‘Working with Rivers’.
1. ESTA Annual Course and Conferences
a) The 2010 event was held at Leicester University from 17th-19th September and the conference theme was ‘Geology and Society’. A series of workshops covering cosmic collisions and comets (see Figure 1), BGS online resources, the school seismology project, remote sensing and ocean drilling were on offer throughout the day on Friday, but in the morning there were separate INSET courses for Higher Education and post-16 teachers.
The H.E. course included sessions dealing with digital mapping and GIS, a 3D visualisation project, the GEES climate change project and a project to create e-learning modules for Earth Science students using Xerte templates.
Post-16 teachers were treated to two updating lectures: one on the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and the other on how the patterns of fossils preserved in rocks can help to decipher ancient climate change. Lectures were followed by a ‘Bring and Share’ session for post-16 teachers.
‘Bring and Share’ was a well-supported and popular session. There were some fascinating contributions that included: using balloons as models to predict which building will collapse during an earthquake (see Figure 2), a laboratory simulation of hydrothermal mineralisation, a simple demonstration of the “freezing” of a magnetic field, a demonstration of how to make mountains at breakfast, a 60 second video showing the evolution of life and ‘Street Geology’ (virtual geology fieldwork with Google Earth Street View).
The Friday afternoon session was a stimulating joint H.E. - post-16 discussion forum which basically dealt with Geoscience in the 21st century and which generated much discussion and allowed frank exchange of views.
The day closed with an evening lecture on exceptionally preserved fossils. This was provided by Prof David Siveter (University of Leicester).
On Saturday 18th, our keynote speaker was Dr Laurance Donnelly (Wardell-Armstrong) who gave a talk entitled ‘Geoforensics in Policing and Law Enforcement’. Delegates were then able to choose from a range of workshops, which were mainly for teachers working with KS3-4 students, and lectures covering a wide range of topics including the ‘sixth element’, gas hydrates and sustainable development and geoscience.
The conference dinner was held at the amazing venue of the National Space Centre in Leicester. After a brief welcome, delegates were allowed to roam freely around the Centre and view / play with the exhibits (Figure 3). There was even an opportunity to ride in the Space Simulator to Europa (luckily this was before dinner). The excellent dinner was served in the main venue, surrounded by the displays and all enjoyed the meal. Following the meal there were further opportunities to view the exhibits and then a visit to the Space Theatre for an exciting film about Mars.
Conference ended with a choice of different fieldwork activities on Sunday 119th September. Field work included a visit to Bardon Quarry (led by Kip Jeffrey, University of Leicester), examination of the Jurassic strata exposed in the Tilton Railway cutting (led by Dr Jan Zalasiewicz and Prof Dick Aldridge) and an excursion to Charnwood Forest under the leadership of Dr Gawen Jenkin and Dr Dave Holwell (both of the University of Leicester).
An added bonus to this event was that it generated sufficient copy to publish in March 2011 a 108-page’bumper’ edition of the ESTA magazine: Teaching Earth Sciences. This publication has allowed those ESTA members unable to attend the 2010 ESTA Course and Conference the opportunity to access some of the conference materials.
Figures 1. Delegates amazed at the vapour trail generated by their ‘home-made’ comet.
Figure 2. Balloon ‘high rise buildings’.
Figure 3. ‘Spaceman Jenkin’. Conference Organiser Gawen Jenkin
(University of Leicester) ‘playing’ in one of the exhibits.
b). At the time of writing this report the 2011 ESTA Annual Course and Conference, so kindly funded by PESGB is yet to take place at Durham University. This conference has the theme ‘Energy’ and it is being held in July rather than in ESTA’s ‘usual’ September slot. This Course and Conference promises to be a stimulating and very interesting event. A copy of the flyer for this event at Durham is shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Flyer for the 2011 ESTA Course and Conference.
Generous PESGB funding has made all the difference to the security of the finances as the Leicester and Durham Conferences were being planned and to the level of administrative help that PESGB’s funding supports. PESGB sponsorship has also made a massive difference to the number of teachers able to attend the events by reducing the price of each event. Indirect benefits are the cross-fertilization of ideas produced by publication of a ‘Conference-themed’ edition of the ESTA magazine and also as a result of producing a conference that allows teachers in Higher Education, in schools and Further Education colleges to meet and work together.
2. ‘Working with Rivers’
This PESGB-funded project is to develop a curriculum pack for use in the primary school curriculum. The project, originally based on Earth Science in the Geography curriculum, is linked to the theme of water, rivers and coastlines. A member of ESTA’s Primary Team has written a workbook and practical exercises suitable for primary school pupils at Key Stage 2.
The design, layout and illustrations for the storybook (‘A Tale of three Raindrops’) and the work book have been completed. Sadly, since last June the author has had cancer resulting in an operation and chemotherapy, and is just starting recovery. Once she is fully recovered the project will be finished (with help from others if necessary). Illustrations from the storybook ‘A Tale of Three Rain Drops’ are shown in Figure 5. It is hoped that this resource will eventually be available via the ESTA website.
Figure 5. Illustrations from ‘A Tale of Three Raindrops’.
Final note on GEOTREX (a project originally sponsored by PESGB)
GEOTREX (the Geology Teachers’ Resource Exchange) is the PESGB-funded resource base on ESTA’s website http://www.esta-uk.net/geotrexlogin.html. (Note: To access these resources enter the user name: esta and enter the password: esta) This resource base was originally set up in 2005 to facilitate networking and sharing of teachers’ resources. During 2009/10 this site was significantly increased in size so that there are resources covering not only the main topic areas within the ‘A’ Level Geology syllabuses, but also some of the key areas within the GCSE Geology syllabus. In 2010/11 GEOTREX has ‘spawned’ another section of the ESTA website: STEGO (Secondary Teachers Exchanging Geology Online). ESTA member Joanie Marion was inspired to produce items for this part of the website after using the GEOTREX section of the ESTA website. STEGO covers resources suitable for the Earth Science components in Science courses and also has links into materials in GEOTREX that might be suitable for KS3 or KS4 use. (Note: Files in STEGO can be accessed using the user name and password given for GEOTREX) As for GEOTREX, files in STEGO can be easily downloaded by teachers and either used directly or adapted for use at different levels.
GEOTREX and STEGO are making a difference: they are excellent, wide-ranging teaching resources. Most Geology teachers are working in isolation and GEOTREX and STEGO are much-needed methods of communication between teachers providing ways by which teachers can share good ideas and good practice
ESTA is immensely grateful to PESGB for its financial support for these projects during 2010/11. PESGB’s support is helping ESTA to provide much-needed accessible, up-to-date resources and IT-based materials for teachers at all levels. The society’s financial support is also enabling more teachers to attend ESTA’s Annual Course and Conference or to benefit from these Courses and Conferences by receiving ‘Conference’ editions of the magazine: Teaching Earth Sciences.
ESTA is proud of and honoured by its association with PESGB. Conversely, PESGB should be proud that, by funding such activities as outlined in this report, the society is actively making a real difference to Earth Science education by improving Earth Science education in schools, colleges and Higher Education institutions.
ESTA Newsletter Editor and Projects Manager
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