This week, I come bearing a link: The Earth Science Literacy Initiative

I hadn’t actually heard of this before. My mom got a copy of their flier when she was on a tour, and then handed it off to me. It is one densely packed little folded piece of paper. One thing I did notice right away, though – Dr. Budd’s involved! He’s in the Geology department at CU, and was my teacher for general geology and for intro to field.

Really, I feel like I’m randomly running in to Dr. Budd a lot these days. I also randomly met him at the AAPG conference that was in Denver over the summer and we chatted a little, mostly just saying hello. I’m glad to see that he’s so out there and involved in promoting public education, though. I already respected Dr. Budd and thought he was an excellent teacher, but this bumps him up even further in my esteem.

It looks like the PDF on the site is basically a copy of the flier, so I definitely recommend taking a look at it. The PDF sure has it all… not just lot of information focused on Earth sciences, but a blurb right up front about the scientific method. Best quote:

The power of the scientific process is seen in its relentless march toward better explanations of how the laws of the universe operate.

Well said indeed.

The other thing that really struck me about how they’re laying this out is that they break the basis for the study of geology (and other earth sciences) down in to nine simple “Big Ideas.” Now, each of these ideas have a bunch of sub-points that elaborate and illustrate, but the big ideas in and of themselves are, I think, a very sound framework for the things everyone should know and understand about our field of science. Things that I would, given the opportunity, write on Ray Comfort or Ken Ham’s arms in permanent ink. For all the good that would do. But anyway, the idea seems to be to promote the big ideas and the supporting concepts to give a much clearer framework for what earth science education standards should be, particularly for K-12 in both schools and text books.

Big Idea 1: Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.

Big Idea 2: The Earth is 4.6 billion years old.

Big Idea 3: Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life.

Big Idea 4: Earth is continuously changing.

Big Idea 5: Earth is the water planet.

Big Idea 6: Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.

Big Idea 7: Humans depend on Earth for resources.

Big Idea 8: Natural hazards pose risks to humans.

Big Idea 9: Humans significantly alter the Earth.

The site even notes that we should be worrying about how scientifically illiterate the population is. There’s been a lot said about the battles in biology in regards to trying desperately to keep religion out of the science class room. And those are big, important battles. But I think it’s sometimes easy to forget that earth sciences are in the cross-hairs of the dogmatic opponents of science, considering one of our most important concepts is that our dynamic planet is quite old. I’m very glad to see steps being taken to promote earth science before it gets in to the dire straits biology is in. (Though we may already be there, and we’re just not seeing it reported. It’s a worrying thought.)

Getting a unified document about earth science literacy is a very good first step. I suppose that promoting it is the next step. And then…?

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