Contact: Michael J. Smith (207) 230-0046
December 10, 2001

Middle-School Students Discover How the Earth Works

    ALEXANDRIA,VA — Middle-school students are learning about the processes that affect our active, ever-changing planet as they use the newest hands-on inquiry-based curriculum module developed by the American Geological Institute (AGI). Investigating Our Dynamic Planet is the sixth of nine modules produced in association with It’s About Time Publishing and comprising the Investigating Earth Systems™ curriculum program. This new series, developed in accordance with the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards and the American Association for the Advancement of Science—Project 2061's Benchmarks for Science Literacy, is designed to help students understand fundamental Earth science concepts by the time they complete the eighth grade.

    In the Dynamic Planet module, students use modeling experiments to investigate the nature of the Earth’s interior, mantle convection, and past and present motions of tectonic plates and associated dynamic events and processes, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain-building.  Students then use their findings to produce safety and survival guides for people who live in regions prone to earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides.

    Investigating Earth Systems™ provides the teacher and students with a wide selection of content that meets local interests and course objectives. The modules can be used as stand-alone units or as a full course presented in any order. The activities help students learn the principles and practices of Earth science. Students hypothesize, experiment, reflect, and analyze as they work collaboratively to solve problems, explore how the Earth works as a set of systems, and appreciate the relevance of Earth science to their lives and the environment.

    Field tested and content reviewed, Investigating Earth Systems™ is part of AGI's ongoing program that is implementing effective Earth science education reform. Other modules in this curriculum program are Investigating Oceans, Investigating Water as a Resource, Investigating Energy Resources, Investigating Fossils, Investigating Materials and Minerals, Investigating Rocks and Landforms, Investigating Soil, and Investigating Climate and Weather. In October 2001, NSF awarded AGI a $1.7 million grant (ESI 0095938) to develop an inquiry-based Earth science textbook for middle-school students over the next three years. The new curriculum-development effort, Project CUES (Constructing Understandings of Earth Systems), will be based in part upon the Investigating Earth Systems™ curriculum program.

    AGI has been a leader in geoscience education for four decades. With funding from the National Science Foundation (Grants ESI 9452789 and ESI 9353035) and the corporate contributors of the AGI Foundation, AGI continues to produce high-quality, innovative, inquiry-based curriculum for K-12 Earth science education. Professional development for teachers is made possible with support from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation, the Geological Society of America, and the AGI Foundation.

    AGI has just completed a comprehensive curriculum program for high schools, EarthComm™, which is available through It’s About Time Publishing, <>. At the college level, the Institute produces the AGI/NAGT Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology (fifth edition, 2000) and is developing a series of web-based activities for use in introductory geoscience courses. For more information about these materials, including a comprehensive brochure that includes a sample activity from AGI’s EarthComm™ or Investigating Earth Systems™ modules, visit the AGI web site,, or contact Dr. Michael J. Smith, AGI Education Director, at

    The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 39 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 120,000 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 mankind'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,

Back to top

AGI Home | News | BookCenter | Careers | Data | Directory | Education | Environment | GeoRef | Geotimes | Govt. Affairs | Members | Publications

agi logo© 2001 American Geological Institute. All rights reserved.