Earth Science Week Update September 2020

American Geosciences Institute
Vol. 18, No. 9: September 2020


Earth Science Week 2020 Coming Soon: Get Ready!

Now is the time to make plans for Earth Science Week, taking place October 11-17, 2020. Even as the current pandemic reshapes education practices worldwide, you can celebrate the 23rd annual Earth Science Week theme of "Earth Materials in Our Lives" with a wide range of exciting activities, programs, and resources. Many are designed to promote awareness of the ways that Earth materials impact humans - and the ways human activity impacts these materials - in the 21st century.

Pitch in to teach young people about Earth system science. Conduct activities described on the Earth Science Week website. For more ideas on event planning, see recommendations online.

This year's event is shaping up to reach even more people than last year's audience of over 50 million. For the past 23 years, AGI has organized Earth Science Week to foster public and professional awareness of the status of Earth science in education and society. To learn more, visit the event website

Virtual Reality Reshaping Geoscience Education

How are educators across the country and around the world exploring the Earth Science Week 2020 theme "Earth Materials in Our Lives"? One important way is by exploiting the educational potential of virtual reality technology, which allows students to learn about Earth science in many ways and from many locations.

Read "Fieldwork Among the Pixels" from AGI, organizer of Earth Science Week, to find out how virtual and augmented reality are diversifying geoscience education. The article is featured on the Nautilus EARTH Channel, which carries cutting-edge geoscience news and perspective pieces. AGI has partnered with Nautilus to advance geoscience journalism.

And for an exciting example of this educational technology, check out the virtual field trip of Shenandoah National Park launched by the National Park Service in partnership with AGI. "Virtual Field Trip: Air Quality at Shenandoah National Park" incorporates interactive features allowing visitors to virtually explore the park, enjoying beautiful park vistas while learning about scientific contributions that the park makes to our understanding of air quality. Click on the "Standard" or "Accessible" version, allowing users with certain disabilities to have access to the same materials in a more accessible manner. 

Less Than a Month to Enter Earth Science Week Contests

How can you combine fun, creativity, and geoscience exploration? With entries due near the end of Earth Science Week - Friday, October 16 - science students and enthusiasts across the country are busy completing submissions for the Earth Science Week 2020 essay, visual arts, photography, and video contests. submit yours soon!

Teams and individuals of any age are invited to submit brief videos that tell viewers about "Earth Materials Around the World." The photo contest, also open to all ages, asks participants to showcase "Earth Materials in My Community." Open to students in grades K-5, the visual arts contest encourages children to depict "Earth Materials and Me." Finally, students in grades 6-9 are eligible to enter the essay contest, "How We Process Earth Materials."

For all contests, entries may be submitted any time up to the Friday of Earth Science Week, October 16, 2020. These contests allow both students and the general public to participate in the celebration, learn about Earth science, and compete for prizes. The first-place prize for each contest is $300 and an AGI publication. To learn more about these contests, including how to enter, visit online.

Plan for Upcoming Earth Observation Day

Earth Science Week 2020 invites you once again to take part in Earth Observation Day during this weeklong celebration of the geosciences! Earth Observation Day (Tuesday, October 13) aims to engage students and teachers in remote sensing as an exciting and powerful educational tool.

The event is a STEM educational outreach event of AmericaView and its partners. AmericaView is a nationwide partnership of remote sensing scientists who support the use of Landsat and other public domain remotely sensed satellite data through applied remote sensing research, K-12 and higher STEM education, workforce development, and technology transfer.

For lessons and activities by AmericaView and other organizations, as well as additional Earth Observation Day resources, please see the program website.

See Webinar Series on America's Geoheritage

Working with a coalition of organizations, AGI is encouraging educators and others to take part in the "America's Geoheritage II: Identifying, Developing, and Preserving America's Natural Legacy" Distinguished Speaker Webinar Series.

The series of eight free webinars presents a range of topics related to geoheritage that can be connected to curriculum and instruction in several subject areas. The series runs on Tuesday mornings through November 2020.

CEU credit is available for educators who participate in the series (which can be done by watching the recorded webinars). For information on CEU credit, contact AGI Education and Outreach Director Ed Robeck at

The webinar series is being organized by the Board on International Scientific Organizations, U.S. National Committee for Geological Sciences, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the series is sponsored by the American Association of State Geologists, American Geosciences Institute, Geological Society of America, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, National Earth Science Teachers Association, National Park Service, and U.S. Geological Survey.

Webinars are being recorded and provided for viewing later on the series website. For a complete list of webinar dates, topics, and speakers in the series, and to register, visit online.

AGI Website Locates Geoheritage in Your State

Did you know that in the roughly 30-mile-wide Rio Grande Rift, running from Colorado through New Mexico, the continental crust is thinning as it stretches to the east and west at a rate of a few millimeters per year?

Or that West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio preserve fossil-rich reefs, remnants life that once thrived in shallows seas spanning eastern North America throughout the Paleozoic?

To learn about the ways people interact with geoheritage where you live, explore the Our Shared Geoheritage page of the Earth Science Week website and unearth the geologic history of your state. This page also links educators and students to recommended resources including downloadable reports, articles, blogs, geoheritage locations, and learning activities.

View "Geoheritage by State" to learn more about geoheritage where you are. And learn more about "Our Shared Geoheritage" online.

Get Earth Science Week Toolkits While Supplies Last

Don't wait any longer to order your Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit! The toolkit contains everything you need to prepare for Earth Science Week (October 11-17), which celebrates the theme "Earth Materials in Our Lives." This year's toolkit includes:

  • 12-month school-year activity calendar, suitable for hanging
  • New Earth Science Week poster, including a learning activity
  • Factsheet on minerals in cellphones and Navy gear from USGS
  • NASA materials on water science and a poster on agriculture
  • National Park Service resource on paleontology in our parks
  • Factsheet from the Soil Science Society of America
  • Geologic Map Day poster dealing with Earth materials
  • Mineral Education Coalition material on mineral science
  • IRIS flyer dealing with seismology and earthquakes
  • AmericaView Earth materials board-game poster
  • Geothermal Resources Council poster on energy science
  • American Geophysical Union poster on environmental science
  • UNAVCO sticker and poster on geoscience measurement
  • Switch Energy Project sticky notes about energy science
  • Hydrology flyer from Nutrients for Life Foundation
  • Bureau of Land Management dinosaur coloring page
  • National Science Foundation worksheets on rocks and water
  • GemKids poster from Gemological Institute of America
  • Water Footprint Calculator information on water science
  • Forest Service, Paleontological Society, AIPG items and more

Supporting high-quality geoscience teaching and learning, this year's kit is perfect for homeschoolers, educators, and professionals in science centers, museums, parks, scout organizations, and additional informal education settings. The toolkit is free and available for the cost of shipping and handling. Pay just $8.50 for the first toolkit and $2.25 for each additional toolkit in the United States.

Order your Earth Science Week 2020 Toolkit today. For information on ordering, special shipping, bulk orders, and more, email AGI Publications at

National Natural Landmarks Offer Education Resource

The National Park Service's National Natural Landmarks (NNL) program - which recognizes and?encourages the conservation of?sites that?contain outstanding biological and geological resources - provides teachers and students with unique opportunities to study and experience geoscience in their part of the country.

NNL sites are designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for their condition, illustrative character, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education. Many of the nearly 600 sites across the country have been given this designation for their significant geological resources.

Each site tells a piece of the story of the nation's natural history, from various geological processes to characteristic landforms to evidence of plants and animals that lived thousands to millions of years ago. To find out more about the NNL program, visit online.

Shine a Media Spotlight on Your Great Activities

Energy! Climate! Natural disasters! Jobs! Earth science is breaking news. Educators can take advantage of journalists' interest in geoscience to promote awareness of local Earth Science Week activities. Here are five effective strategies:

  • Plan a special event to draw attention to your Earth Science Week activities. Conduct an investigation or experiment, invite a prominent geoscientist to talk with students, stage an event with a nearby museum or science center, or honor geoscience enthusiasts who make a difference. Show how you're innovating in education during the pandemic.
  • Prepare a 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 for followup. Print the release on your letterhead and fax it to editors and reporters at least three days before the event.
  • 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. Write a brief, compelling query letter to the appropriate editor at each media outlet. Follow up with a phone call and email.
  • Write letters to the editor for print in local newspapers and magazines. You might respond to a recent geoscience-related article with a letter to the editor. If possible, schedule a meeting with the editorial board. Or instead of a letter, perhaps write an opinion editorial, or "op-ed," to cite concerns and recommend solutions.
  • Use available Earth Science Week materials in promoting awareness. In the Earth Science Week Toolkit and on the event website are 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 celebration to emphasize its significance.

For more ideas, see the Event Planning site.

Geoscience for Everyone Day: We Want You!

Join the Earth Science Week team in encouraging everyone - including women, minorities, and people with a range of abilities - to explore geoscience careers on "Geoscience for Everyone Day," Thursday, October 15, 2020.

Even in a time of pandemic, there are ways to engage. If you're an educator, invite a geoscientist to speak to your students online. Open a young person's eyes to the world of Earth science.

In doing so, you'll be supporting the efforts of AGI member societies such as the Association for Women Geoscientists and the National Association of Black Geoscientists in raising awareness of the remarkable opportunities available in the Earth sciences. Learn more about Geoscience for Everyone Day online.

Are you a geoscientist who's not sure where to start? See "Be a Visiting Geoscientist," a guide designed for geoscience professionals who want to actively support education. You can provide unique enrichment opportunities, based on your education and experience.


The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests 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 resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment. For contact information, please visit online. To subscribe to this newsletter, visit online and submit your email address.