Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Secondary Level Earth Science Classes and the University of California

From Wendy Van Norden, co-founder of CalESTA, California Earth Science Teachers Association (http://cestanet.org/)

California Earth Science educators:

Below you will find a petition to the Academic Council of the University of California. At this time, the "d" requirements for a lab science specifies only biology, chemistry and physics. If you are in favor of petitioning the UC Academic council to include Earth, Environmental, and Space Sciences as a choice for a "d" lab science, please "sign" the following petition by sending the following to Wendy Van Norden at wvannorden@hw.com.

I support the petition from the California Association of Earth Science Teachers to the Academic Council to include Earth, Environmental and Space Sciences as a choice for the "d" lab requirement for admission to the UC system.




Please forward this petition to any interested educators. Thank you.



We, the undersigned request that the UC High School “d” requirements for laboratory science be amended to include “Earth, Environmental, and Space Sciences” as a choice for admission to the UC system:

I. Currently the UC High School area “d” requirement states that students shall take “two and preferably three courses from the following sciences: biology, chemistry, and physics.”

II. We, the undersigned, request that the “area d” requirements for laboratory science be amended to include “Earth, environmental, and space sciences” as an additional choice for admissions to the UC system. Earth, environmental, and space sciences broadly defined include content in astronomy, ecology, geology, meteorology, oceanography, Earth systems science, environmental science, planetary science, and other topics within the integrative study of all or parts of the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere; of the solar system, and of the cosmos. The text of the UC Area-d requirement is proposed to then read:

“two and preferably three courses from the following sciences: biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth, environmental, and space sciences.”

III. To be considered for certification in the “d” subject area courses (in Earth, environmental, and space sciences) must meet the same requirements as biology, chemistry and physics, which is described in http://ucop.edu/a-gGuide/ag/content/Guidetoa-gReqs_2008.pdf

• specify, at a minimum, elementary algebra as a prerequisite or co-requisite;

• take an approach consistent with the scientific method in relation to observing, forming hypotheses, testing hypotheses through experimentation and/or further observation, and forming objective conclusions; and

• include hands-on scientific activities that are directly related to and support the other classwork, and that involve inquiry, observation, analysis, and write-up. These hands-on activities should account for at least 20% of class time, and should be itemized and described in the course description.

IV. We make this request in consideration of the following points

a. We California educators want to teach rigorous Earth , Environmental, and Space Science content to college-bound students. However, because the UC system does not accept Earth Science as a “d” laboratory course, administrators are actively discouraging us from doing so. The removal of Earth science courses from the “d” laboratory status has encouraged schools to drop Earth science courses, or to drop the laboratory component of Earth science courses. Even if we are able to teach a rigorous Earth Science course, college-bound students are discouraged from enrolling. The addition of Earth, Environmental, and Space Science in the “d” requirements can reverse this process.

b. Earth, Environmental, and Space Science classes can be taught as rigorous, problem-solving curricula that can easily fit into the “d” requirement. There are many courses already available. The Earth sciences have benefited enormously from the explosion of online data that are available for analysis in demanding problem-solving exercises, and providing students with important 21st century skills.

c. Earth, environmental and space sciences are included in several national standards recommended by several prestigious agencies (e.g., National Academy of Science/National Research Council, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Council of Scientific Society Presidents, the College Board), and those of California. UC’s science admission requirements are not in compliance with either the national or the California state secondary school standards.

d. Topics in the Earth, environmental, and space sciences comprise 30% of the questions on the 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress test (Nation’s Report Card). The National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Council of Scientific Society Presidents all recommend that Earth and space science classes be included a part of standard high school curricula.

e. It would be difficult to find a state more in need of Earth science literacy than California. The topics of earthquakes, landslides, water supply, water quality, climate change, flood control, resource use (and depletion), air/water pollution, and plate tectonics, are extremely relevant to California residents. Unfortunately, these topics are rarely found in the curricula of biology, chemistry or physics.

f. The Earth, environmental and space sciences are intrinsically interesting, and are likely to entice more students into the sciences

Wendy Van Norden

Harvard-Westlake School

3700 Coldwater Canyon

No. Hollywood, CA 91604

818 487-6665


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