As the Next Generation Science Standards move into broader use, many pre-service teacher training programs, as well as programs geared towards teacher professional development, are rethinking how and what they teach. Unfortunately, this rethinking will do little to address a serious issue facing the United States: the lack of qualified Earth Science teachers. Although physics, chemistry, and biology classes are generally taught by teachers with at least a minor and often a major in the core science, earth science teachers may have little or even no qualifications in earth science. I am astonished that 40% of ESS courses offered in secondary schools are taught by teachers without any science coursework whatsoever! This research report by Horizon, Inc., published in 2002 and likely similar to the situation today, paints a stark contrast between the Earth Sciences and other science disciplines:
This is not a “new” realization – many people have recognized the shortage of Earth Systems Science teachers, and a number of calls to action have been made (such as this one).
Which leaves me wondering – what will we as a community dedicated to the teaching and learning of Earth System Science do to remedy the situation? How can we hope for a future citizenry that can tackle tough issues related to climate, water, energy, and sustainability if we can’t even offer our students teachers trained to think about the Earth?
A number of programs, many funded through the GEO-Teach or GK-12 programs, are addressing this issue. Perhaps one of these programs has the answer for training the teachers of Earth System Science that we need for the future. A few examples: