David Ireland (right) and Ken Kundel, both sixth-grade teachers in Rapid City, prepare to launch rubber ducks to measure stream velocity at the Earth and Space Science Concepts Workshop held at Black Hills State University.

Twenty-seven teachers from across the state of South Dakota attended an Earth and Space Science Concepts for Teachers workshop at Black Hills State University. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Abigail Domagall, assistant professor of geology at BHSU, and Dr. Janet Briggs, science education specialist at the Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education (CAMSE) at BHSU.

The workshop, funded in part by a grant, was facilitated by the Science Specialist Endorsement through BHSU, an 18-hour program that serves as a content area within the Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction degree, or as a stand-alone endorsement on the teaching certificate of teachers with an existing master’s degree.

Teachers in the workshop developed a deep understanding of core Earth science concepts through inquiry-based activities such as analyzing soil from their part of the state; identifying rocks and minerals in hand samples; and using real data about volcanoes, age of the sea floor, and earthquakes to illustrate the evidence for plate tectonic theory, according to Briggs. Michelle Bartels, a middle school teacher in Hamlin commented, “I love this class! All of the information is extremely user friendly for my sixth or eighth graders.”

Space science activities included developing models to demonstrate seasons on Earth and phases of the moon; determining the relative size and distance of objects in the solar system and the Milky Way Galaxy; and examining the visible universe, according to Briggs. Participants noted that the workshop provided inspiration, and an enhanced understanding of earth science concepts as well as teaching models. After modeling the phases of the moon, Beth Schumacher, a gifted teacher in the Crow Creek Tribal School said, “An ah-ha moment for me was when we were talking about the phases of the moon and how long it takes the moon to make one revolution around the Earth. It made sense to me when we looked at the observations that we’d recorded for the last month and then modeled the moon revolving around the Earth.” Debby Hopkins, a high school teacher in the Tripp-Delmont School District, said the following about the workshop, “The hands-on activities we did were much more enlightening to me than reading the information in a book. I know they will be more engaging and enlightening to my students than my lecturing and diagramming.”

The workshop was funded in part through a No Child Left Behind Title II grant written by Briggs and Domagall. It provided valuable supplies for the teachers to use in their classrooms as well as lodging and meals for the week. This is the second grant that Briggs and Domagall have collaborated on and Briggs has received 5 previous Title II grants.

For more information contact Janet Briggs at 642-6875 or Janet.Briggs@BHSU.edu or Abigail Domagall at 642-6506 or Abigail.Domagall@BHSU.edu