GeoLog

GIFT workshop

Apply now to take part in the 2016 GIFT workshop!

Apply now to take part in the 2016 GIFT workshop!

The General Assembly is not only for researchers but for teachers and educators with an interest in the geosciences also. Every year the Geosciences Information For Teachers (GIFT) is organised by the EGU Committee on Education to bring first class science closer to primary and high school teachers. The topic of the 2016 edition of GIFT is ‘The Solar System and beyond’. This year’s workshop is co-organised with the European Space Agency (ESA) and will be taking place on 18–20 April 2016 at the EGU General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

The workshop will explore the major characteristics of the Solar System with the latest information gathered from recent space exploration using man-made satellites, and will also look into the latest theories on the formation of the Solar System. Special attention will be paid to the Moon and to Mars. Results from the ESA Rosetta Mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will also feature in the 2016 GIFT workshop.

Teachers from Europe and around the world can apply to participate in the 2016 edition of GIFT, and to receive a travel and accommodation stipend to attend the workshop, by November 30. Application information is available for download in PDF format, a document which also includes the preliminary programme of the workshop.

Not sure what to expect? More information about GIFT workshops can be found in the GIFT section of the EGU website. You can also take a look at a blog post about the 2015 workshop and also learn what the workshop is like from a teacher’s perspective here. You might also find videos of the 2013 workshop useful too.

GeoEd: EGU General Assembly and GIFT 2015

GeoEd: EGU General Assembly and GIFT 2015

The most recent issue (Winter/Spring 2015) of the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter includes a piece, by Earth Science Correspondent, Michael J. Passow, on the 2015 General Assembly and the GIFT (Geosciences Information For Teachers) Workshop. Passow gives an account of this year’s workshop, on the topic of mineral resources, and outlines the participating teacher’s experience.

Each spring, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly brings geoscientists from all over the world to Vienna for a conference covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary and space sciences. EGU 2015, convening 12-17 April, provided a forum where scientists, especially early career researchers, could present their work and discuss their ideas with experts in all fields of geoscience. Concurrently, nearly 80 educators from around the world gathered for the 11th Geophysical Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshop of the EGU. They included, for the first time, your correspondent.

This year’s GIFT workshop welcomed 76 teachers from 21 different countries. GIFT 2015 centered on the theme “Mineral Resources.” Driving this selection was growing awareness that expansion of the world population from 6 to 9.6 billion in 2050 and rapid industrialization of highly populated countries, combined with an overall higher standard of living, are expected to intensify global competition for natural resources and place additional pressure on the environment, both terrestrial and marine. We recognize that mineral reserves are being depleted, and concerns are growing about access to new raw materials, especially basic and strategic minerals. Rise in the price of several essential metals, for example copper, has prompted some industrialized countries to initiate concerted activities to ensure access to strategic minerals.

Participants of the GIFT workshop at the 2015 General Assembly. Credit: Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent for the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter.

Participants of the GIFT workshop at the 2015 General Assembly. Credit: Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent for the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter.

Europe has recently begun initiatives that attempt to solve the issue. Europe depends greatly on imports for many materials needed for construction and heavy and high-tech industries. Recycling, resource efficiency, and searching for alternative materials are essential, but probably not sufficient to meet demands. There is a need to find new primary deposits. But politicians and business leaders are concerned because deposits, when identified, occur in areas difficult to access, barring modern exploration technology, and requiring huge investment costs. Exploration requires substantial capital, rare expertise, and leading edge technologies in order to secure the lowest extraction costs. GIFT 2015 matched teachers with experts of exploration, extraction, policy making in the field of future mineral resources, including the deep-sea frontier.

The EGU welcomed the teachers and started to bond them with a special guided visit to the Vienna Museum of Natural Sciences on Sunday, 12 April. They then joined all conference participants in the “Ice Breaker Party” at the Austria Center, where the scientific programs took place. Find out more information about EGU 2015 here.

Many of the participating teachers also contributed to the program through hands-on workshops, poster sessions, and other activities. Your correspondent presented in one of the hands-on workshop sessions classroom-based activities about minerals. Participants made models of the silicon-oxygen tetrahedron and other molecules using raisins and toothpicks. They shared strategies to teach important minerals properties, such as cleavage and magnetism, in their countries. An anticipated highlight was distributing samples of fluorescent minerals donated by the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Ogdensburg, NJ, and watching them glow under ultraviolet energy.

Hands-on workshops at the GIFT workshop during the 2015 conference. Credit: Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent for the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter.

Hands-on workshops at the GIFT workshop during the 2015 conference. Credit: Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent for the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter.

Many of the teachers received partial conference expenses through professional societies and other sources. When participants return to their home countries, they are expected to complete an evaluation form to assess this year’s program and provide guidance for next year’s. Each will also make presentations about their EGU experience to teaching colleagues, submit reports and photographs about how GIFT information and resources have been used, and, contribute articles about the GIFT workshop to professional publications aimed at geosciences teachers.

You can learn about past GIFT workshops through the EGU website. Beginning in 2009, EGU has created web-TV presentations, which may be freely downloaded and used in classrooms. To expand the impact and outreach of the programs, the EGU Committee on Education began in 2012 a series of GIFT Distinguished Lectures in several European countries. Leading scientists who have participated as speakers in GIFT workshops during the EGU General Assemblies are supported to provide organized educational event for high school science teachers.

Similar GIFT Workshops are offered at the annual American Geoscience Union meetings held each fall in San Francisco. These are organized by the National Earth Science Teachers Association and the AGU Education Program. Resources from the previous four AGU GIFT workshops are available online.

by Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent

This article originally appeared in the Newsletter of the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education.

For an electronic subscription to the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter please e-mail a request to JLRoeder@aol.com. You can also access the Newlsetter via the website of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

The GIFT Workshops are organised by the EGU’s Committee on Education. You can learn more about the GIFT programme and the other educational activities fostered by the Committee on the EGU website.

GIFT at the Assembly: Mineral Resources

GIFT at the Assembly: Mineral Resources

The EGU’s Geosciences Information for Teachers (GIFT) programme offers teachers attending the conference the opportunity to hone their Earth science skills. The General Assembly workshop is one of GIFT’s most important activities of the year, combining talks on current research with hands-on activities presented by educators. What’s more, scientists can also come to the sessions – here’s what’s in store…

The theme of this year’s GIFT workshop (EOS1) is Mineral Resources – the event will explore one of the most important challenges faced by modern society: access to raw materials, including base and strategic minerals, in a rapidly developing and growing world. Featuring talks by leading scientists in the field, the workshop will kick off with a discussion on raw materials and their sustainability in the 21st century (at 8:45 in Room G10). This is followed by two great talks on where do minerals come from and how they get there, by Laurence Robb of the University of Oxford, after which you can learn about the role of inorganic chemistry in the formation of ore deposits at the hands of Kliti Grice from Curtin University, Australia. This is just a taster, though – you can find out more about the workshop here.

GeoEd: Lessons from the EGU 2014 GIFT Workshop

Today’s GeoEd post is brought to you by Susan Tate, an 8th grade teacher from Michigan in the USA. Susan attended the GIFT workshop held during the General Assembly last year.  The GIFT programme offers primary school to high school teachers the opportunity to upgrade their knowledge in geophysical themes and to shorten the time between new discoveries and textbook information. After three days supercharging her geosciences knowledge at the 2014 conference, Susan shares her perspective on the GIFT workshops.

What do you get when you combine a three-day Earth science workshop, world-renowned scientists, inspirational fellow teacher-participants, and one of the most beautiful, historical and culturally-rich cities in Europe? Answer: an opportunity of a lifetime for this small town Midwestern teacher, who had never even traveled to Europe before.

As a recipient of the William Goree Award for 2014, I would be experiencing the European Geosciences Union GIFT (Geosciences Information For Teachers) workshop in Vienna, Austria, fully funded by 2G-Enterprises (the company founded by the late William Goree and William Goodman), EDUGEA (an educational association in France), and EGU. I learned of the EGU GIFT workshop and the scholarship opportunity from an announcement in a NESTA newsletter in November of 2013. When I asked my principal for permission to apply—as I would be missing four days of school if selected—I told him that it was definitely a long-shot, but it would be a dream come true to attend. Imagine my excitement when I got an email in mid-December notifying me that I was to receive the Goree Award!

I spent the next few months preparing for my late April trip, and at the recommendation of Dr. Carlo Laj, chairman of the EGU Committee on Education, and Dr. Stephen Macko, a professor at the University of Virginia who serves on the committee, I was in frequent contact with Abigail Morton, a Pennsylvania teacher who had received the Goree Award the previous year. Armed with insider knowledge, abundant excitement to see the beautiful city of Vienna, and growing curiosity about the workshop speakers and participants, I stepped off the plane early on the morning of Sunday, April 27th ready to soak it all in.

Susan at the Rocks of the Earth exhibition at European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2014. (Credit: Susan Tate)

Susan at the Rocks of the Earth exhibition at European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2014. (Credit: Susan Tate)

The program began with a pre-workshop reception and guided tour of the Vienna Museum of Natural History. This museum, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, is located in the heart of the historic section of the city. As I wandered through the astounding collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils, Dr. Macko informed me that the museum houses the oldest and largest public collection of meteorites in the world! At the museum I met the other American teachers in attendance, including four Einstein fellows who were working with NSF and NOAA. The conference had not yet officially begun and I knew I was going to be inspired as much by my fellow teacher-participants as by the program speakers.

The theme of the 12th annual EGU GIFT workshop was “Our Changing Planet” with an emphasis on climate, and on the first official morning of the conference we got right to business with an engaging talk by Thomas Stocker, IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group 1 Co-Chair, from the University of Bern, Switzerland. Dr. Stocker highlighted the process of the IPCC working groups, the wealth of data supporting anthropogenic climate change, and the serious risks that we face if we do not act to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. This compelling presentation was followed by a talk from Valerie Masson-Delmotte about climate information that can be obtained from ice cores, and hands-on activities from Sally Soria-Dengg and Francesca Ugolini.

I found the experiments on ocean acidification and the role of the ocean in the carbon cycle, demonstrated by Dr. Soria-Dengg, to be very engaging and enlightening, and I cannot wait to use those in my Earth science classes this year as we study the connections between climate and oceans. I especially enjoyed the demonstration of ocean acidification using a glass bowl filled with distilled water and an indicator solution. Lighted floating candles are placed on the water’s surface and then covered with a second glass bowl to make a chamber. As the burning candles release carbon dioxide, the surface water in contact with the air turns yellow, which indicates acidification. This visual demonstration will clearly illustrate for my students how ocean water can become acidic as it absorbs increasing amounts of CO2 from our atmosphere.

Day 2 of the GIFT workshop dawned bright, and all of the teachers were ready to learn more about the evidence for human impact on our climate system. One of the challenges for teachers concerning this topic, especially in the United States where it is fraught with political tension and argument, is presenting the scientific data in a way that is clear, concise, and allows students to connect the dots without forcing conclusions on them. Frequently during the workshop the mood in the room would turn quiet and somber as all of the teachers grasped the sheer amount of scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change. We learned of evidence from ice cores, ocean chemistry and expansion, sea ice melt, agricultural change, and satellite observations. By the afternoon of the second day, we were ready to lighten the mood with a game called The Carbon Caper. I can definitely see my middle school students getting involved in a game that simulates carbon movement between various sources and sinks by throwing plastic balls into mesh bins. The best kind of learning for many of us is the kind in which we feel like we are playing instead of learning.

Tuesday’s program was shortened to allow us to get ready for the evening’s poster session. Since the GIFT workshop was part of the EGU General Assembly, there were literally thousands of posters being presented during the conference. It was quite overwhelming to even find the section where I was supposed to hang my own poster, which was on water quality research conducted by my students on our local watershed. Thankfully, Dr. Eve Arnold, also a member of the EGU Education Committee, had prepared us well for the event, and we followed a schedule that allowed us to spend some time at our own poster answering questions, and equal time interacting with other teachers and their posters. I was able to get many good ideas for my classroom from other GIFT participants.

On the final day of the workshop, we heard from Dr. Larry Mayer, Director of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, as he discussed his experiences with recent changes in Arctic ice cover. Dr. Mayer entertained us with tales from his voyages mapping sea ice in the Arctic, as well as cautioned us about the implications of diminishing sea ice on both our climate system and our geopolitical system. According to Dr. Mayer, the five coastal nations that border the Arctic—Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States—have all engaged in extensive seafloor mapping in the last decade in order to establish their sovereign rights over the resources of the seafloor under the Law of the Sea Treaty. This presentation was very interesting and provided us with great resources to make interdisciplinary connections between science and social studies.

An additional highlight on the final day of the conference was the opportunity for the U.S. teachers to visit a school in Vienna. Claudia Pollach and her administrators at AHS Heustadelgasse were very gracious to open the doors of their school to us. We enjoyed learning more about the education system of Vienna, and the environmentally sustainable design of Ms. Pollach’s school.

I am incredibly grateful that I was able to attend the EGU GIFT workshop last spring with the assistance of the William Goree Award. This opportunity was definitely responsible for expanding my scientific background, which is the purpose of the award. Since returning from Vienna, I have included details of my experience in a presentation at the Michigan Science Teachers Association conference, as well as worked with several extracurricular student groups on climate-related projects. In the next month, I will be teaching units on climate and oceans, and I am excited about incorporating the hands-on lessons that I learned from the GIFT workshop. I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Carlo Laj (Chairman of the EGU Committee on Education and founder and President of EDUGEA), Lauren Keaton (William Goree’s daughter), and William Goodman (2G Enterprises) for selecting me for this award and for fostering such high-quality teacher professional development.

By Susan Tate, 8th Grade Earth Science Teacher, Whitehall Middle School, Michigan