Earth Science Week Update September 2006

American Geosciences Institute
Vol. 4, No. 3: September 2006

EarthCachers Celebrate
Earth Science Week 2006

Want to celebrate Earth Science Week with a mix of geoscience technology, experiential learning, and outdoor adventure? Be among the many people nationwide who visit an EarthCache!

Geocaching emerged as a recreational activity just a few years ago, but its popularity has grown quickly. Here’s how it works: An organizer posts latitude and longitude coordinates on the Internet to advertise a “cache,” a scavenger-hunt destination, which geocachers locate by using GPS devices. Today there are about 270,000 active caches in more than 200 countries, according to Over one million people participate.

EarthCaching has recently added an educational dimension to the activity. When geocachers visit an EarthCache site, they learn something special about Earth science, the geology of the location, or how the Earth’s resources and environment are managed. EarthCaching has been developed by the Geological Society of America (GSA) - a major Earth Science Week partner - in association with Groundspeak, Inc. and the geocaching community.

To kick off Earth Science Week 2006, GSA is promoting an EarthCache EventCache nationwide, from 1 to 3 p.m. (local time), on Sunday, Oct. 8. The EventCache provides a common time for EarthCache activities planned across the country. Participants likely will visit a significant geological outcrop such as a quarry or road cut, a fossil or mineral collecting site, a museum, a science center, a state geological survey, or a college geoscience department. Organizers are invited to advertise local EarthCaches via and by sending details to GSA at and AGI at

At the same time, Earth science enthusiasts and geocachers in the Washington, D.C. area are invited to attend the first annual D.C. EarthCache ( GSA and AGI are co-hosting this major event, including exciting geoscience presentations and hands-on demonstrations, at the foot of the Washington Monument from 1 to 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct 8.

Greg Forbes, a popular on-air personality and severe weather expert for The Weather Channel cable network, will lead a brief educational program and festivities. Participants will learn about the Earth science behind building materials used in our national monuments, as well as the consideration given to natural and man-made forces such as acid rain, pollution, severe storms, high winds, and flooding. Hands-on science activities will demonstrate geoscience applications. With festivities including “giveaways” such as T-shirts and Earth science materials, fun and learning are sure to be in the forecast!

Two Weeks Left to Enter
Earth Science Week Contests

With entries due Oct. 5, science students and enthusiasts across the country are busy completing their submissions for the Earth Science Week 2006 essay, and photography contests. Send yours today!

The photography contest, open to all ages, focuses on “Using and Studying Earth’s Resources.” Participants are encouraged to think creatively and submit pictures of geoscientists studying or working with the Earth’s natural resources or people using these resources.

The visual arts contest is titled “Earth Science in Your Home Town.” Students in grades K-5 are encouraged to draw, paint, or create a poster on any aspect of Earth science that affects their local community. Artwork entries should be no larger than 24-by-36 inches.

Students in grades 5-9 are eligible to enter the essay contest: “Be a Citizen Scientist!” Essays must be no longer than 500 words and should highlight the ways every person can contribute to a better understanding of our planet.

The contests offer opportunities for students and the general public to participate in the celebration, learn about the Earth sciences, and compete for prizes. The first-place prize for each contest is $300. To learn more, visit

Calling All Teachers:
Earth Science Week Wants You

During Earth Science Week (Oct. 8-14), students will explore mines and caves, sample groundwater, monitor the weather, visit museums and science centers, prepare science projects at home, and conduct scientific investigations in their classrooms. Leading them will be teachers just like you.

You’re encouraged to lead your own celebration. For example, you can conduct an Earth science lab activity, using one of the activities recommended on the Earth Science Week Web site ( In the process, you can heighten awareness about the vital roles that geoscientists play and how “citizen science” is vital to informed decision making, responsible citizenship, and career success.

Remember, you’re not working alone. Talk with your school’s guidance counselor about how a schoolwide celebration of Earth Science Week can promote science literacy and achievement. Work with your science supervisor, coordinator, and fellow teachers to build exemplary programs develop school and community activities that will spread awareness. Communicate to your principal, superintendent, and school board members, and PTA representative the importance for your students of a sound education in Earth science. And collaborate with a nearby museum, science center, geoscience company, or civic group to organize local events.

Shine a Media Spotlight
On Your Activities

Natural hazards! The environment! Energy! Earth science is breaking news. Educators can take advantage of journalists’ interest in geoscience to promote awareness of local Earth Science Week efforts. Here are five effective strategies you can use:

1. Plan a special event to draw attention to your Earth Science Week activities. Consider conducting a classroom or outdoor activity, inviting a prominent local geoscientist to talk with students, hosting a ceremony or a banquet, co-hosting an event with a nearby museum or science center, giving awards to volunteers, or recognizing geoscience educators or professionals who make outstanding contributions to the community.

2. Prepare a detailed press release to alert the media about your Earth Science Week activities. Answer important questions, such as who, what, where, when, and why. Include data and quotes from key players. Provide contact information journalists can use to get additional information from you, school leaders, or related sources. Print the release on your letterhead and fax it to editors and reporters, especially those who have previously covered your school, at least three days before the event.

3. Be persistent in pitching your story to local news organizations. Besides noting the “hook” of Earth Science Week, show how your activities address issues that are urgent, timely, and relevant to the community. Consider which news outlet is likely to cover your particular effort - a newspaper, a glossy magazine, or a TV news show? Write a brief, compelling query letter to the appropriate editor. Follow up with a phone call or an e-mail asking whether there are any questions and when you might expect to hear back.

4. Write letters to the editor and op-ed pieces for print in local newspapers and magazines. You might respond to a recent geoscience-related article with a letter to the publication’s editor. If possible, schedule a meeting with the editorial board to increase the likelihood of getting your issue covered. Or instead of a letter, write an opinion editorial, or “op-ed,” to call attention to specific concerns and recommend solutions. For Earth Science Week 2006, discuss how your community needs “citizen scientists.” Review examples of op-eds that have run recently and follow the publication’s rules for length and format.

5. Use the available Earth Science Week materials in promoting awareness. In the Earth Science Week Toolkit and on the event Website are a number of print and electronic materials - poster, calendar, logo, and more - that you can use to “brand” your activity. Link your local activity to the larger national and international celebration of Earth Science Week to emphasize its significance.

Finally, remember the first rule of public relations: The more people you get to help tell your story, the more effective your efforts will be. Don’t rely on any one media outlet to do the whole job. Pursue a diverse set of outreach strategies - from op-eds and press releases to proclamations and PSAs. By exploring varied approaches, you improve your chances of success.

The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of 44 scientific and professional associations that represents more than 120,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other Earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interest in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of the resources and interaction with the environment. More information about AGI can be found at The Institute also provides a public outreach site at