Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategies

Earth Science Week 2019: Geoscience Is for Everyone

Strategies for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Thank you for supporting Earth Science Week! One of the main goals of the program is to offer high-quality learning activities that stimulate experiential learning and mobilize conceptual thinking in the geosciences.

The Earth Science Week theme for 2019 is “Geoscience Is for Everyone.” This theme focuses on the inclusive potential and the importance of the geosciences in the lives of all people. It offers an opportunity for people of all descriptions to explore studies and careers in the geosciences.

To support the theme, Earth Science Week promotes learning activities that are inclusive and motivating for diverse populations. While K-12 students are a key Earth Science Week audience, inclusive activities can be geared towards serving the needs of all learners, regardless of background or identity and allowing all learners to participate fully in the learning process.

Following is a selection of strategies that are designed to support inclusive activities. They are organized under headings given in Appendix D of the Next Generation Science Standards, which you can visit for a more detailed discussion of each approach. Each strategy is also accompanied by an example of a related geoscience-focused learning experiences. Approaches that are listed for one group may work well with another, which helps to address the range of learner needs and interests.

1. Economically Disadvantaged Students - Effective strategies for increasing achievement of students living in poverty:

Strategy: Connecting science education to students’ sense of “place” as physical, historical, and sociocultural dimensions in their community

Description: The teacher keeps students engaged by connecting science subjects to the students’ community.

Geoscience Example: Students’ examination of drainage basins includes a look at how their community interacts with a nearby river or stream, including the social, economic and ecological benefits it provides.

Strategy: Applying students’ “funds of knowledge” and cultural practices

Description: The teacher elicits students’ prior knowledge and builds on their funds of knowledge as a resource for further questioning and investigating.

Geoscience Example: An examination of the water cycle begins with a whole class discussion in which students describe their uses and needs for water, what they already know about where water is stored on the Earth, and the movement of water between reservoirs.

Strategy: Using project-based science learning centered on authentic questions and activities that matter to students

Description: The teacher presents a real- world scenario or event for students to analyze and investigate.

Geoscience Example: Students learn about renewable and nonrenewable energy resources and consider the fuel mix that generates electricity for their local utility.

2. Students from Key Ethnic and Racial Groups - Effective strategies for increasing achievement of students from major racial and ethnic groups:

Strategy: Culturally relevant pedagogy

Description: The teacher integrates and connects the cultures of students to academic content and practices.

Geoscience Example: As part of an investigation of rocks and minerals, students consider the use of gemstones and metals for beauty and adornment in their own culture.

Strategy: Community involvement and social activism

Description: The teacher creates meaningful, place-based lessons that may result in social activism.

Geoscience Example: Students look at local water supply and demand and create a water conservation campaign for their community.

Strategy: Multiple representation and multimodal experiences

Description: The teacher provides multimodal experiences that allow students to use senses and modalities to absorb material, including tactile, kinesthetic, and acting out scenarios.

Geoscience Example: Students examine the distances between planets through multiple modes of representation including mathematical calculations, drawings and diagrams, and the building of scale models.

Strategy: School support systems including role models and mentors of similar racial or ethnic backgrounds

Description: The teacher exposes students to people from the students’ own background who support science learning. This includes other teachers, guidance counselors, mentors, students’ families, as well as scientists.

Geoscience Example: Students identify and communicate with professional geoscientists who share their own race or ethnicity.

3. Students with Disabilities - Effective strategies for increasing achievement of students with disabilities:

Strategy: Multiple means of representation

Description: The teacher provides students various ways of acquiring information and knowledge.

Geoscience Example: Students examine moon phases using a software program, a physical model, an interactive graphic, as well as observations of the moon in the sky.

Strategy: Multiple means of action and expression

Description: The teacher offers students alternatives for demonstrating their understanding of topics and what they know.

Geoscience Example: Students select from video, audio, or written options for explaining the impacts of earthquake events.

Strategy: Multiple means of engagement

Description: The teacher presents various ways for students to engage in classroom learning.

Geoscience Example: Students work with an individual, partner, small group, and large group to develop multiple models of glacial movement and erosion.

4. English Language Learners - Effective strategies to deepen understanding of science while learning English:

Strategy: Literacy strategies for all students

Description: The teacher uses various strategies for literacy development (reading, writing, speaking, listening). These include:

  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Explicit discussion of reading strategies for scientific texts
  • Prompting students to use academic language functions (e.g., describe, explain, predict, infer, conclude) for science and engineering
  • Engaging students in scientific genres of writing (e.g., keeping a science journal)
  • Teaching the uses of graphic organizers (e.g., concept map, word wall, Venn diagram)
  • Encouraging reading trade books or literature with scientific themes

Geoscience Example: Students begin their examination of weather by recording the ideas of members of a group on a conceptual web to organize their initial thinking about weather conditions, weather characteristics, and the factors that cause weather to change.

Strategy: Language support strategies with English language learners

Description: The teacher provides language support strategies with English language learners. These include:

  • Hands-on activities
  • Realia (real objects or events)
  • Multiple modes of representation (gestural, oral, pictorial, graphic, textual)

The teacher guides students to comprehend key science vocabulary in context – both general academic terms and discipline specific terms.

Geoscience Example: Student consider the global distribution of flora and fauna by examining labeled cards with photos that represent Earth’s major biomes.

Strategy: Discourse strategies with English language learners

Description: The teacher facilitates English language learners’ participation in classroom discussion to enhance their understanding of academic content (i.e. adjust the level and mode of communication).

Geoscience Example: As part of an investigation of water resources, students examine wastewater treatment using a jigsaw format in which groups of students develop expertise in reading, writing, and speaking about specific stages of sewage treatment.

Strategy: Home language support

Description: The teacher builds upon and makes use of students’ home language to support science learning in English. The teacher may introduce key science terminology in both the home language and English, highlight cognates as well as false cognates between English and the home language, allow code-switching, and encourage bilingual students to assist less English proficient students in home language.

Geoscience Example: Students watch videos of volcanic eruptions and then are paired according to similar language backgrounds to develop scientific questions about volcanoes based on their observations. An English-language word bank is provided to support expression of the questions.

Strategy: Home culture connections

Description: The teacher connects science to students’ home culture by eliciting students’ “funds of knowledge” related to science topics and use students’ cultural artifacts and community resources in ways that are academically meaningful and culturally relevant.

Geoscience Example: As part of an investigation on climate change, students conduct parent interviews to find out how their consumption of energy for personal uses, such as transportation, heating, cooking, and electricity has changed over time.

5. Girls - Effective strategies that can positively impact girls’ achievement, confidence and affinity with science:

Strategy: Instructional strategies

Description: The teacher uses instructional strategies to increase girls’ science achievement and to strengthen their intentions to continue on in science. These include:

  • Building opportunities to experience phenomena and framing science as inquiry
  • Integrating literacy with science
  • Explicitly focusing on metacognitive comprehension strategies, by using non-fiction texts in science class

Additionally, girls would gain confidence in classrooms where risk taking is encouraged, teachers would support positive messages about girls’ competence, and it would clearly be conveyed that “science is for all.”

Geoscience Example: Students consider sea-level rise due to climate change. They read case-studies about the effects of rising sea-level on coastal areas and generate problems and possible solutions to this issue.

Strategy: Curricular decisions

Description: The teacher plans a curriculum that improves girls’ achievement and confidence in science. Features include:

  • Promotes images of successful females in science
  • Enhances girl’s engagement by focusing on science topics related to the girls’ interests
  • Develops aptitude and confidence toward nontraditional science topics by exposing girls to the topics early
  • Motivates girls toward technology by incorporating design and stressing the aesthetic aspects of science
  • Motivates girls by engaging them in topics that they perceive as addressing issues relevant to the real world

Geoscience Example: Students investigating wind energy are challenged to come up with a design for a wind farm that meets the need for electricity generation and is aesthetically pleasing within a landscape.

Strategy: Classroom and school structure

Description: The teacher develops science and engineering activities so that they benefit girls by intentionally giving active roles to all learners. Features include:

  • Thoughtfully planned instructional grouping
  • Pairing girls with friends
  • Giving every student her own materials to tinker with

Additionally, research supports adjusting schools’ organizational structures in ways that benefit girls. For example, after-school clubs, summer camps and mentoring programs enhance girls’ confidence toward science and increase mastery of science content.

Geoscience Example: Students examine deep ocean currents by working in groups to develop and use a series of models that demonstrate thermohaline circulation. Students switch roles within their groups as they develop their models so that each student has the opportunity to test, build, refine, and communicate the design features of the model to others.

6. Alternative Education Students - Effective strategies that foster engagement and increase exposure for students at risk of dropping out:

Strategy: Structured after-school opportunities

Description: After-school opportunities increase success for students in alternative education. Effective programs offer structured and challenging after-school opportunities in a positive environment that increases engagement with the school. After-school experiences are especially important for students at risk of school failure because these programs fill the afternoon “gap time” with constructive social activities.

Geoscience Example: Students are exposed to a range of geoscience topics through an after-school Earth or environmental science club.

Strategy: Family outreach

Description: Effective alternative education programs have family engagement to tackle student alienation through outreach to families. These programs connect schooling with families by organizing field trips, picnics, and other informal activities. They also strengthen families by offering classes on communication, parenting, and student academic support.

Geoscience Example: Students are encouraged to visit an astronomical observatory with their families to learn more about the universe and its stars.

Strategy: Life skills training

Description: Effective alternative education programs promote students’ life skills, including behavior management, communication skills, and career education. Students improve their ability to make positive choices, express interests, and cope with difficult decisions.

Geoscience Example: As part of their examination of weather and climate, students focus on career connections, such as meteorologist, climatologist, and wind energy expert.

Strategy: Safe learning environment

Description: Effective alternative education programs provide students with a safe learning environment. Although all schools strive to ensure safety, alternative education is sometimes more comprehensive in this area, with policies that forbid harassment and take critical action to ensure compliance, such as removing offenders. In this way, schools become a safe place for students to learn, an expressed need of alternative education students.

Geoscience Example: Students consider lab safety rules and safety precautions before they carry out investigations on the properties of water and how those properties affect the structure of the hydrosphere.

Strategy: Individualized academic support

Description: Individualized academic support is an effective means of engagement for students in alternative education. Academic support includes specially designed instructional techniques that encourage risk taking, participation, and self-efficacy. Individualized instruction focuses on academics and core subjects and address specific learning needs through mentoring, tutoring, and homework

Geoscience Example: As a final step in their investigation of plate tectonics, students form partners and collaborate on their reflections of how plate movements have caused changes in the positions and shapes of Earth’s landmasses.

7. Gifted and Talented Students - Effective strategies to ensure that gifted and talented students receive instruction that meets their needs:

Strategy: Fast pacing

Description: The teacher uses flexible pacing strategies that benefit gifted and talented students. These include:

  • Permitting students to pretest out of curriculum already mastered and condense the content partially learned.
  • Exploring areas of study while avoiding redundancies by offering connected extension activities.
  • Including options for gifted and talented students to impose their own deadlines.
  • Providing differentiated instruction through the use of an anchor activity (motivating task), instead of requiring gifted and talented students to do simply more work.

Geoscience Example: Students consider the impacts of using fossil fuels, including oil spills. After examining the impacts of a large oil spill (e.g., Deep Water Horizon), students are given the option of researching methods that have been used to clean up oil spills and the effectiveness of each approach.

Strategy: Different levels of challenge (including differentiation of content)

Description: Teachers promote the level of challenge so that it extends the current mastery level of the students. Strategies include:

  • Using advanced materials and objectives
  • Establishing higher expectations for idea generation and creativity
  • Examining the complexity of ideas
  • Allow learning experiences to be open-ended
  • Connecting learning experiences to the real world
  • Avoiding repetitive tasks

Fostering higher-level and abstract thinking

Geoscience Example: Students examining geologic time can choose to visit a classroom learning center where supporting data and information is provided about Earth’s past big five mass extinction events. Students compare the causes of these events and are challenged to find evidence that indicates a sixth mass extinction is currently underway.

Strategy: Opportunities for self-direction

Description: The teacher encourages autonomy by allowing the student to follow and cultivate her/his interests and to play a role in her/his own learning trajectory. The teacher helps the student develop strengths and engage in pursuits for which the student has a passion. In addition, the teacher can incorporate motivating, authentic connections to science content that allow for student-directed goal setting, exploration, and self-evaluation. Choices that reflect the different learning styles of the student should be included.

Geoscience Example: Students are presented the question of whether technology can reduce the impact of natural disasters. Students work individually, in pairs or groups and select a type of natural hazard or technology that interests them to investigate and present to the class.

Strategy: Strategic grouping

Description: The teacher encourages flexible grouping to enhance academic and socio-emotional development of gifted and talented students, such as classroom grouping that allows for both individual time on projects and opportunities in groups with like-minded peers in terms of ability and/or interests. Effective grouping can vary between teacher-selected and student-selected in order to offer a wide range of experiences.

Geoscience Example: Students consider ways in which astronomers use electromagnetic radiation to study objects and events in space. Students are put into groups to research space-science missions designed to investigate specific wavelength ranges of electromagnetic radiation.