David W. Mogk
Dept. of Earth Sciences
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717

Level: Grades 5 and above


Estimated time required: Variable; it is recommended that time be regularly scheduled on a weekly basis during an entire academic year, or on a daily basis during the course of an earth science unit, to demonstrate the close relationship between geology and our society.

Anticipated Learning Outcomes


Recent publications from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Project 2061 Science for All Americans (1989) and The Liberal Art of Science (1990), address the problem of scientific illiteracy in America by proposing some specific recommendations for reform:

  1. start with questions about nature;
  2. concentrate on the collection and use of evidence;
  3. provide an historical perspective, and, I would add, geographic, cultural,
    economic, and political perspectives as well;
  4. acquire scientific knowledge and scientific habits of the mind;
  5. insist on clear expression;
  6. use a team approach; and
  7. engage students actively.

These recommendations contain inherent scientific and human significance in terms of the utility of scientific knowledge, the need for social responsibility, the intrinsic value of knowledge, and the overall enrichment of students through education. There is no better place to discover the relationship between natural science and our society than through the news media. Every day news items report events or occurrences in natural systems that impact personal lives, communities, and planetary systems. This provides a very convenient format to explore the scientific basis for the event, cause and effect, and the direct relationship between science and the community-at-large.



Students should be assigned (or encouraged) to read the newspaper on a daily basis, listen to news on the radio, or watch on TV, to acquire material related to the earth sciences. Natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, hurricanes, etc.), human-made hazards (urbanization, other compromised engineering projects, etc.), environmental issues, resource extraction issues all appear in the news with great frequency and are easily accessible to students. For lower grades, teachers or parents can contribute these news items. Global events may be of general interest, but there is sure to be a wealth of information on the local level as well (water quality, solid waste management, development issues, etc.). The news items may then be presented to the class as a) "show-and-tell" exercises, with follow-up discussion by the class, b) a bulletin board that could be dedicated to posting the geologic events of the week, c) scrapbooks of events, either chronologically or category of events compiled by individuals or classes. If you do this over the course of a year you will be amazed at how much newsworthy information is earth-related.

Results and Discussion

Acquisition of this informational database serves many classroom needs:

Additional Activities

Follow the development of local Earth-related issues with invited presentations from business people, city or county government officers, local activists, etc. to explain their involvement with the issues. If possible, schedule field trips to visit specific sites related to the news items: country landfill, watersheds, sanitation department, etc.

Selected References

American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1990, The Liberal Art of Science Agenda For Action: AAAS, Washington D. C., 121 p..

RUTHERFORD, F.J., AND AHLGREN, A., 1990, Science for All Americans: Oxford University Press, New York, 246 pp. (This is the "popular" version of the Project 2061 report).

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