Supporting the 3 Rs of earth science education – rocks, relevance and rapture!

Meakin, Simone1; Filan, Susan2

1Geological Survey of New South Wales, Department of Regional NSW, Maitland, Australia, 2Australian Earth Science Education, Londonderry, Australia

In 2018, the New South Wales (NSW) high school curriculum for Earth & Environmental Science was overhauled. There is new emphasis on both renewable and non-renewable resources, exploration techniques including sampling and geophysical surveying, and rehabilitation after mining. In response to the need for new teaching materials, the Geological Survey of NSW (GSNSW) expanded its outreach to educators. A range of general interest publications, hands-on activities, display sets, events and workshops have been delivered, and self-guided geotrails developed.

GSNSW also investigated the engagement of an education officer to support educators in NSW. It sought guidance from teachers and groups such as Earth Science Western Australia (ESWA), a successful industry-sponsored organisation that has supported teachers in WA for 15 years by providing teacher training, school incursions and excursions, and a wide range of high-quality teaching resources. In 2020, ESWA expanded to establish Australian Earth Science Education (AusEarthEd)and recruited an education officer in NSW, based at the GSNSW’s WB Clarke Geoscience Centre at Londonderry, western Sydney. Ongoing collaboration between the organisations has enabled targeting of some products and resources to address the curriculum, thereby better supporting teachers.

The widespread lockdown associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on geoscience outreach and education activities. Many activities and projects were moved online, and teachers relied heavily on online resources. The launch of the Newcastle Coastal Geotrail and a supporting app by the GSNSW in August 2020 was accompanied by a series of videos and a webinar that presented geological information in a new and engaging way. This had unprecedented reach, attracting over 400 attendees to the webinar and over 100,000 views of the video on social media. A significant number of teachers have since made use of the NSWGeoTour app that features a self-guided tour of the geological features and historical context of the area. AusEarthEd also mapped the geotrail content against the Year 1‒12 curriculum in Science, History and Geography, suggesting real and virtual excursions for teachers.

It is helpful to map educational resources to the curriculum so that teachers can immediately see relevance to the curriculum. For discoverability, resources must be delivered through accessible websites that teachers use regularly. Ongoing collaboration between geoscientists and teachers, including enhanced creative development of online teaching resources, will be vital to meet the evolving demands of teachers and students.


Biography

Simone has worked with the GSNSW for many years, firstly as a field geologist and now managing its small publications and outreach team. Susan is an experienced Earth & Environmental Science teacher and Education Officer with Australian Earth Science Education located in NSW.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.

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