June 4, 2003
Contact: Michael J. Smith (703) 379-2480


AGI Receives Grant to Develop
Environmental Science Textbook

ALEXANDRIA, VA - The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the American Geological Institute (AGI) a grant of $998,000 to develop an environmental science textbook for high-school students over the next three years. The new textbook, Environmental Science: Understanding our Changing Earth, will be written in collaboration with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) and high-school teachers, and will focus on the relationship between humans and their geological surroundings. "Using an Earth system science approach, this innovative, interdisciplinary environmental science curriculum will help students gain the fundamental scientific knowledge and skills that will empower them to be literate citizens of Planet Earth," says Michael Smith, AGI Director of Education and Outreach.

    Recent studies show that the demand for environmental science courses is growing and there is a tremendous need for appropriate curriculum materials. The majority of environmental science textbooks emphasize ecology. What makes the AGI project unique is its geoscience approach to environmental problems. The textbook will integrate technology, field, and laboratory-based activities to address five core concepts associated with the environment: human population growth and its impact; sustainability of population with available natural resources; understanding Earth's systems and the effects of natural and induced change; earth processes and risk to life and property; and scientific inquiry in reaching decisions and formulating policy. Accompanying the textbook will be a DVD developed by the USGS having a wide variety of datasets, including a global base map, population, land cover, petroleum deposits, and ecosystems, and ArcView Data Publisher software. This powerful feature will enable students to conduct activities which examine how multiple factors influence the environment and will reinforce the core concepts. A comprehensive teacher's guide and training manual, web sites for teachers and students, and a parent's guide will also be developed to support the course of study.

    The project team is directed by Michael Smith, AGI Director of Education and Outreach, and includes Travis Hudson, AGI Director of Environmental Affairs, and Christopher Keane, AGI Director of Technology, Development and Communications, who serve as Co-Principal Investigators. AGI will provide overall management; take the lead as senior editors of content, student activities, and the teacher guide; coordinate testing and data evaluation functions; and direct the development and integration of various computer-based applications. Paul Hearn, Chief of Regional Programs for the U.S. Geological Survey Eastern Mapping Division, will facilitate coordination of subject-matter experts on relevant topics. Other team members include Gregory McHone and John Field, both of whom have taught environmental science and environmental geology at the college level, and Ann Benbow, AGI's Director of Program Development and Evaluation, who will lead the effort to develop the assessments for the curriculum.

    AGI has been a leader in geoscience education for four decades. With previous funding from the National Science Foundation (Grants ESI 9452789 and ESI 9353035) and support from the corporate contributors of the AGI Foundation, AGI has produced other high-quality, innovative, inquiry-based curriculum for K-12 Earth science education. The nine-module Investigating Earth Systems™ for middle schools and the five-module EarthComm™ for high schools are now commercially available through It's About Time Publishing ( Under NSF Grant ESI 0095938, AGI is developing Project CUES (Constructing Understandings of Earth Systems), an inquiry-based Earth science textbook for middle-school students. For more information about these and other Earth science education programs, visit the AGI web site,, or contact Dr. Michael J. Smith, AGI Education and Outreach Director, at

    The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 41 scientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources and interaction with the environment. More information about AGI can be found at The Institute also provides a public-outreach web site,


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