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Earth and space concepts workshop held at BHSU

Thirty-three teachers from across South Dakota attended an Earth and Space Science Concepts for Teachers Workshop recently at Black Hills State University. It was facilitated by Dr. Janet Briggs, Science Education Specialist at the Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education (CAMSE) and Dr. Abigail Semple, geology professor at BHSU.

According to Janet Briggs, principal investigator of the grant, “The goal of the workshop was to increase teachers’ understanding of science content in both geology and astronomy as well as provide inquiry-based experiences for teachers that could be easily adapted for use with their students.”

Geology sessions included a hydrological examination of Spearfish Creek; an investigation of plate tectonics using maps of geography, ocean floor ages, earthquakes and volcanoes; and an activity focusing on relative dating of rock formations. Teachers also toured the 300 foot level of the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) in Lead observing the geology and learning about the old mining methods from former miners.

The astronomy sessions were based on a professional development program “Beyond the Solar System” for which Briggs received training at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 2006. One of the activities, a “Birdseed Galaxy” model had teachers imagine that the solar system was shrunk to the size of an Oreo cookie and the sun was the size of a small grain of millet birdseed. To show the number of stars in the Milky Way you’d have to build a 4 foot fence around a football field and fill it with birdseed.

The workshop was funded in part through a No Child Left Behind Title II grant written by Dr. Briggs and Dr. Semple. Additional funding was provided by the South Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant.

For more information about the workshop contact Janet Briggs at 642-6875 or Semple at 642-6506.

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