In building a nation, it is vital to have a solid understanding of earth science. Nearly everything we do every day is linked to Earth in some way: its land, oceans and atmosphere, as well as plants, animals, and other living things. Our food, water, homes, offices, clothes, energy, and air are all derived from the planet. Eight billion people will be living on Earth by 2025 according to the American Geological Institute Foundation (AGI). These people will continue to extract resources for a high standard of living. We, citizens and individuals, must learn more about the Earth and all its resources in order to benefit from them. Only through Earth Science education will students be able to understand and appreciate the complexity of our planet. The young and old must work together in order to achieve the important task of nation-building. However, not all students are ready to work together to gain the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary for a secure future. The teacher must facilitate learning in order to ensure that students receive a high-quality education. This paper will examine the challenges teachers face in teaching Earth Science to secondary students. It will also highlight the positive aspects of learning this subject.
My first teaching experience in earth science was September 2005 at a public secondary school in Davao Oriental. It was District 1. The first day I entered the classroom with fifty students packed together, I still have vivid memories. Some were busy talking with their classmates while others were doing other tasks in their chairs. When I saw that, my first thought was “How can I get their attention?” When I introduced myself as their science teacher, I could see different emotions reflected on their faces. They displayed emotions such as happiness, anxiety, worry, and anxieties. It is not clear if they were ready to learn new lessons in earth science. Let them take a piece of paper, write their names, their favorite subjects, their least favorite, their reasons for loving or loathing a particular subject, and what their expectations were of that subject. This was done to find out if they are interested in the subject, or what subjects they like best and why they love them. Out of over fifty (50), students, only four (4) stated that science subjects are their favorite. When I asked them why science was not their favorite subject, they all replied that it was difficult. This experience taught me that students won’t be able to learn a subject if it is not something they are passionate about. Teaching Earth Science to high school students or undergraduates could prove difficult if students aren’t motivated or aren’t interested in the subject.
There are many ways to motivate students to become interested in Earth Science. My own experience was that I used songs in my lessons. These songs are simple to remember and can be heard often by students. I took the melody of a song and modified the lyrics to fit the topic I was discussing. Songs that were introduced during seminars can also be very useful because it makes it easier for students to remember certain science concepts by simply singing them over and over. These songs include “We’re the Scientist”, in the tune “Ako’y Isang Pinoy”, “Sistemang Harana”, which emphasizes the importance and benefits of scientific method in solving problems. “Super Science” – in the tune “Superman”, emphasises the contribution of science to improving our lives. And “Youngsters love Science”, which is a jolly tune. These songs helped me to remember scientific concepts and terms. This is why I was happy to hear my students sing the songs and share them with their friends.
There are many ways to motivate students to study Earth Science. For students to be interested in Earth Science, teachers should remember that flexibility and connections with other subjects are key factors in motivating them. This was confirmed by my own teaching experience. If one option doesn’t work, you shouldn’t stick with it. These are proven motivating methods that work with students.
1. Use news articles from local, national, or international sources to relate to Earth Science. You can choose from many news items. Students may be interested in older news items, as well as their impact on political and social life. Students are open to discussing news items that relate to the following: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis, Floods; Meteor Showers; as well as news items about disasters of the past or present.
2. Choose a topic that is of common interest to all students. This could be anything from nuclear power plants, illegal logging, global warming, the consequences of urbanization, or mining. Because these issues are actually happening in my locality, I chose to focus on illegal logging, illicit fishing, and mining.
3. Historical, biblical or religious sites and the geology that goes with them: The Chasm at Delphi in Greece and Apollo Temple in Greece; the geology of biblical locations such as the one in Middle East; Pyramids in Egypt; Great Wall of China; Niagara Falls in USA; Grand Canyon in USA; Stories of precious stones and gems; and other similar ones.
4. Anecdotes about the scientific contributions of great men/women in the past and present.
5. Students are always fascinated by space exploration: stories of Lunar exploration, Mars missions and life on Mars; Jupiter with its clouds and moons; discovery and exploration of other galaxies and new stars; and similar explorations.
6. Many facts are fascinating and captivating for Earth Science students. Deepest mine in the earth b. Deepest borehole in the world c. This comparison can help them see how little they know about the earth from direct observation. These distances can be compared with the distance to Moon. This can raise questions such as “how did we not travel too far below the earth?” and “how came we traveled almost a quarter of a mile to the moon?” e. Longitude and latitude are used in navigation and time zones. f. Deep sea drills and the mid-fifties project that drilled past Moho into deep water g. President John F. Kennedy’s promise to put a man on Mars h. Evidence for continental drift i. The development of the fascinating theory of Plate Tectonics.
Some of the above items worked well for me in my classrooms. A teacher can help students get excited about Earth Sciences by having a good general knowledge and an interest in a range of Earth Sciences items. Teachers should remember that Earth Science presents questions that are both exciting and practical for children and adults.
English Language Comprehension
While students may be motivated to learn the subject, there is another problem – how will they understand the instructions with the English language? Most of my first-year freshmen students don’t understand written or spoken English. While those who can understand the first section are able to comprehend the material, there are many students who cannot communicate or write in English. This is a problem as teaching Earth Science should be done in English. All references must also be written in English. English is known to be the “Universal Language of Science”. Teachers should therefore use English to impart knowledge to students. Although I admit my ineptness in explaining concepts using English, I used the vernacular to some parts of my discussion. I used the vernacular to help students understand the concepts I was explaining.
Our school found that students who are not proficient readers or those with poor comprehension skills lower their school’s performance on achievement tests (Divisional, Regional, or National). An Informal Reading Inventory (IRI), was used to partially solve the problem. The school and teachers will be able to identify non-readers and those with poor comprehension. This will help them gauge their reading abilities. It was discovered that some students have reading abilities that are Grade I and that others are non-readers. English teachers are now faced with a new burden. They will not only have to teach their normal subject load, but they will also be required to provide remedial classes for students who have poor comprehension or non-readers. This is not just for English teachers, but also for teachers who have taught English as an instructional medium. Poor or inadequate English backgrounds can slow down scientific development. It is difficult to grasp scientific concepts and learn English language simultaneously.
Discipline in the Classroom
It is vital that discipline be maintained in a classroom with more than fifty students and/or sixty students to ensure maximum learning. Classroom discipline was a problem for me in my first year as a teacher. Students who are loud, constantly leaving the classroom for no valid reason, or students fighting and yelling at each other, were all things that I found irritating. This problem was gradually solved by attending seminars and reading books about classroom discipline.
Students will benefit from a well-managed classroom that offers them many opportunities for mental growth. Classroom discipline creates a positive learning environment and makes school work more enjoyable and engaging. The teacher’s role in the discipline concept is to help students develop self-control, and standards of individual values and activities. This will be done regardless of whether the teacher, parent, or another authority figure is present.
My elementary school discipline concept was very different from the modern one, which is based upon democratic principles. Good discipline is one that encourages self-direction, self-discipline and independence rather than reliance on obedience and compulsion. He also stressed the importance of understanding the causes of violations of discipline so that they can be prevented or minimized.
Being a facilitator for students’ learning in Earth Science, I must remember that classroom discipline is a vital tool to ensure that learning can be achieved. Effective learning facilitators can only be effective if there is proper classroom management and discipline.
Making use of technology
It is not sufficient to rely on textbooks for science concepts and processes. An ordinary classroom is not the best place for observing interactions at all scales, from the solar system to the parts of a cell. Learning is not limited to lectures. Many learners find themselves forced to make mental pictures to help them understand situations that they can’t see. Many times, the result was a misperception that becomes a reality in the student’s mind. These deeply held misconceptions are not being corrected by standard textbooks. Many students are still confused about basic spatial concepts, such as the reasons for seasons. This problem can be solved by teachers being creative and maximizing the technology available.
Teachers must be creative and curious to keep up with technological advances. These ideas and thoughts “conceived by inquiring minds” are a great way to inspire and challenge teachers to be creative. To fulfill my creative urge and to keep up-to-date with technology developments, I regularly visit the World Wide Web. It was difficult for me to do this because my teaching location doesn’t have an internet connection. I can only browse the Internet during weekends for videos and flash animations that will help me understand the topic. To make my lessons more interactive for my students, I used PowerPoint. I found that they were more interested in the lessons if I used PowerPoint. I was also happy that my Principal encouraged the use PowerPoint in classroom instruction. He was the one who proposed and led the implementation of Computer Aided Instruction in the Division Davao Oriental.
Teacher is the first to feel proud of the achievements of students learning Earth Science. My students who do well in exams or at contests related to Earth Science make me smile. My two Division Science Quiz contestants from 2008 in San Isidro National High School were ranked second and three respectively. This was my reward for putting in the effort to review science concepts with students, not just through books, but also via the internet. I also helped them learn how to use the computer to explore the Encarta Encyclopedia. It was also a satisfying feeling to see students embrace positive attitudes when learning about the subject. This helped me instill in my students a love for Earth Science, which could prove to be very useful in other sciences such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics. Students can benefit from an introduction to earth sciences, which will help them understand the connections and their relevance. Students will find it easier to learn other sciences if they have a solid foundation in Earth Science.
My Contribution to Nation-Building and for the Future
As an Earth Science teacher, I know that I play a significant role in building a nation. A nation that maximizes its resources while not sacrificing the future. How we manage and understand our planet is key to our civilization and lives. All of the Earth’s processes impact us. Weather patterns have an impact on water availability and can cause earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons. Floods can also kill large numbers of people, and cause property damage of millions to billions of dollars. Students who are aware of how these processes affect our lives would be more cautious about the actions they take, such as cutting trees, using too many fossil fuels, and spraying with aerosols. Each lesson in Earth science will connect students to the past and challenge them to think about what the future holds.
It is difficult to teach Earth science at secondary school. There are many challenges to overcome so that teaching-learning can be enjoyable for students and teachers. The three years I spent teaching this subject have shaped my understanding and attitude towards it. As a student in elementary school, I have always had a passion for science and love to learn more about it. Now that I am in the field, it is my turn. My enthusiasm for science is now shared with my students, especially in their first science subject in secondary school which is earth science.
The best introduction to science is provided by the earth sciences. The earth sciences incorporate concepts from all major scientific disciplines, including biology, science chemistry, and physics. Teaching earth sciences in elementary and secondary schools will encourage scientific literacy.
Teachers should keep up-to-date with technology in order to stay current in their subject matter. To ensure that our students feel comfortable with science, we should make it part of every day.
Last but not least, it is important to remember that a solid understanding of earth sciences is crucial for a secure future.Everyone benefits when we stress Earth science education.
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