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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Carrie Wright named president of organization for geoscience teachers

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As president of the Central Section of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Carrie L. Wright has a large platform from which to promote the teaching and learning of geology.

Wright, instructor in geology, was named president for 2009-10 of the Central Section, which includes K-16 geoscience teachers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and southern and western Ontario.

She said that the earth sciences have a growing presence on students′ radar screens as a potential avenue for employment. The Pott College of Science and Engineering is developing a program in environmental science.

"More students and employers are interested in environmental sciences," she said. "Topics like global warming and the energy crisis have increased awareness."

Last year a field trip to look at fossils in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area for her class in historical geology required an unprecedented four eight-passenger vans.

Geoscience education is a primary teaching and research interest for Wright. As enrollment increases in geology courses, she encourages teachers to adapt their teaching strategies. They may need more samples in the lab to keep all students actively learning. They may need to fine-tune their lectures to be more active and engaging in order to capture a larger audience.

As part of a series of workshops for K-12 teachers sponsored last summer by the Southwest Indiana STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Resource Center, Wright conducted a four-day session called Earth Science Methods. Fourteen area teachers attended to learn new, easy, and interesting ways to teach basic concepts of earth science.

This summer Wright returns to the SWI-STEM Resource Center′s lineup with fresh ideas for geoscience teachers. She will lead a workshop on geologic hazards with sessions focusing on earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and flooding. Slated for July 12-16, the workshop will include a field trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky to learn about groundwater contamination. A complete schedule of workshops and registration information will be posted at www.swistem.org.

"I′m coming up with new activities and labs to show the teachers," she said. "I love working with them, especially those who are as excited as I am about learning about the planet."

Wright also is organizing a symposium on Easy-to-Incorporate Inquiry-Based Activities for the K-16 Classroom for the combined North-Central/South-Central meeting of the Geological Society of America to be held April 11-13 in Branson, Missouri. When the regional meeting took place in Evansville in 2008, she conducted a similar session.

Her "ice-cream glacier" demonstration always goes over well. She presses vanilla ice cream over crushed cookies, demonstrating how a massive sheet of moving ice erodes the landscape.

"It′s relatively cheap and makes the students happy. They get to eat it," she said.

Wright developed an interest in geology during her childhood in Cincinnati.

"I was always last in the line of hikers with family and scouts, because I stopped to look at rocks," she said. "And, there was a spring near my house with fossils. I was fascinated with that. When I got to college, I majored in zoology at first and then took an introductory geology course. It was as if I had come home. I took in everything the teacher said. I was breathing it in."

Wright joined USI in 2006. She completed bachelor and master′s degrees in geology at Miami University of Ohio and earned a master′s degree in earth science teaching at Wright State University.



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