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By and For Teachers: Earth-Science Multimedia Educational Products

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solar prominence
Above: Use of imagery and multimedia applications can enrich a teacherís ability to illustrate complex and intangible scientific concepts, such as the size and makeup of the solar system. (Image of huge solar prominence taken September 14, 1999, by NASAís SOHO Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope [EIT].) [larger version]

Above: This map, used in a teacherís presentation on the Gulf oil spill, embodies information from the Naval Oceanographic Office to show the location of the Loop Current (in orange) and its flow from the Gulf of Mexico through the Straits of Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean. Teachers learned where to locate credible resources such as this to use in their classrooms. [larger version]

During summer 2010, a graduate-level Physical and Earth Science Education class at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg (USFSP) set out to produce several indepth science multimedia presentations that could be shared with other class members and the teaching community at large. The project came out of a partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Science Communications Team at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center (St. Petersburg, Florida) and USFSP Science Education Professor Malcolm Butler. The partners sought to empower the education students to develop skills by using multimedia as they prepare science-topic resources for educators. The students of the class are local teachers working to boost their expertise in teaching math and science at the elementary-school level. The result was a collection of well-crafted, unique multimedia science-education products that teachers share with each other and use when teaching their own students.

"Presented to the teachers was the idea of a typical elementary-school scenario, in which one teacher catches a colleague in the hallway seeking advice on how to approach a particular science topic," said Butler. "The colleague has only a few minutes to share some key ideas with the teacher. What should he or she say and share? These multimedia presentations are the outcomes of the teachers' response to this scenario."

Topics for these multimedia products ranged from astronomy (Sun as a Star) to marine science (Red Tide) and are tied to current events (Gulf Oil Spill). Teachers acquired new knowledge about a range of scientific concepts, located key resources to use when teaching students, and developed skills in multimedia applications. These included shooting and editing video, PowerPoint animation, and use of graphics.

"Graphics and media are powerful educational tools. At the USGS, we constantly hear that teachers want more high-quality, reliably researched, multimedia educational products that put science and math topics into an exciting context. During this class, this is exactly what the teachers researched and created for themselves," said Ann Tihansky, Information Specialist with the USGS. "Lots of new relevant science isn't in textbooks yet, but there are many good sources on the Web and many exciting ways to link science to society and current events. The partnership with USFSP is a great way to reach teachers and help them locate reliable scientific sources and develop multimedia resources. Connecting with teachers also helps the USGS share new scientific findings with a wider audience."

The presentations involved a combination of showing the relevance of science in everyday life, illustrating hands-on approaches to teaching Earth science, and explaining more difficult, intangible scientific concepts, such as the solar system, through the use of multimedia. The success of the partnership venture was evident in watching teachers share their enthusiasm as they created their science presentations and as they collaborated in devising creative ways to communicate these concepts with their students.

"The teachers were very much engaged in the process of this project. Their interest was raised even further when the class attended a public forum on the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," said Butler. "The teachers were amazed and quite moved by the public's concern and participation in discussions regarding their community. They were even more motivated after attending this event, and their projects substantiated their commitment to ensuring that other teachers are well informed."

The introduction of multimedia into the classroom is a great way to boost scientific literacy and trains educators in gathering information through good, reliable sources from scientific institutions and organizations. In general, these products are valuable to teachers by:

  • Being an information source,
  • Serving as a "how to" guide for teachers,
  • Providing hands-on examples of teaching complex scientific concepts,
  • Covering current events to bring scientific findings into everyday life,
  • Expanding and enriching the educator's toolkit.

We hope to share these products to further extend the reach of science educational resources for all teachers. Currently, these resources are posted online at

Related Web Sites
By and For Teachers: Earth Science Multimedia Educational Products
USF St. Petersburg

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cover story:
Subsea Permafrost and Gas Hydrates Offshore of Alaska

Coral Calcification Rates

Coral Paparazzi

ResearchWhale Falls

Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Trends

Manatee Subspecies Genetically Confirmed

Outreach Earth-Science Multimedia

Woods Hole Partnership Education Program

Meetings International Workshop on Cold-Water Corals

Gordon Research Conference on Natural Gas Hydrates

Awards Jeff Williams Receives NPS Director's Career Achievement Award

Alan Cooper Awarded SCAR Medal for International Scientific Coordination

Publications Oct. / Nov. 2010 Publications U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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