The need for Earth science outreach in Michigan
Knowledge about the nature and practice of science, as well as an understanding of major unifying concepts in science, is essential for every American who hopes to understand many of the global issues we currently face and will face in the future. Furthermore, adult science literacy and a well-trained scientific workforce are critical to the United States’ position as a global leader. To this end, improvements in science education for students of all ages are widely called for. In addition, recent research clarifies the benefits to students, teachers and scientists of partnerships between scientists, K-12 students and educators. Research also documents the power of informal learning experiences to spark curiosity and engage interest in the sciences, as well as to result in academic gains for students. The time to engage young students’ natural curiosity about their environment and attract them to high school and college Earth science classes is during the K-12 years.
To meet this need, K-12 teachers require a readily available resource for classroom materials and inspiration. As such, Western Michigan University’s Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education's K-12 outreach program, CoreKids, has developed classroom modules that tell the story of the Earth’s age, its resources and how they are used and managed. Through providing visits to classrooms and leading class tours of MGRRE and the Department of Geosciences’ facilities that incorporate hands-on experiments, students learn about subsurface materials in their own backyards. We hope this might inspire them to pursue careers in the geosciences as well!
What is CoreKids?
When MGRRE was established in 2006 with funds from the Department of Energy, scientists at the facility made education a priority and called for the development of a K-12 outreach program. The resulting program, now called CoreKids, utilizes the unique geological resources of the MGRRE facility to bring real Earth science to K-12 students.
CoreKids’ fundamental mission is to increase awareness and understanding of Earth, its processes and its natural resources, and a basic tenet is to provide programming to schools and non-profit organizations without charge. Visits to classrooms by CoreKids teaching staff, coupled with school field trips to MGRRE and the Department of Geosciences, have enriched the classroom Earth science experience of over 60,000 southwestern Michigan K-12 students to date, many of whom come from at-risk populations. Furthermore, CoreKids staff has interacted with hundreds of classroom teachers from across the state of Michigan by presenting workshops and exhibits at meetings of the Michigan Earth Science Teachers’ Association, the Michigan Science Teachers’ Association and the regional meeting of the National Science Teachers’ Association/National Earth Science Teachers’ Association, among others.