Contact: Michael J. Smith (207) 230-0046
August 16, 2001

High-School Students Discover Complex Interactions
Among Oceans, Air, and Ice

ALEXANDRIA,VA — The natural cycle of water moving from the oceans into the atmosphere and back to the Earth in the form of  precipitation (snow) provides a logical structure to help students gain understanding of the complex interactions and effects of Earth systems in daily life. These interactions are the focus of Earth’s Fluid Spheres, the third of five hands-on inquiry-based curriculum modules comprising the Earth System Science in the Community (EarthComm™) curriculum program for grades 9-12.

 The American Geological Institute (AGI) is producing the EarthComm™ curriculum in association with It’s About Time Publishing. This innovative series, developed in accordance with the National Science Education Standards and the American Association for the Advancement of Science—Project 2061's Benchmarks for Science Literacy, is designed to help high-school students understand fundamental Earth Science concepts by the time they graduate. Through their inquiry and activities in this module, students develop understandings of the complex Earth systems interactions associated with the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and cryosphere (glaciers).

 EarthComm™ 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. Each chapter in the Earth’s Fluid Spheres module addresses an event or process that occurs in the oceans, atmosphere, or cryosphere, and the activities and background text enable students to understand the complex processes involved in each event.  In “Oceans and Your Community,” students examine El Niño, an event that occurs in the Equatorial Pacific.  In “Severe Weather and Your Community,” the second chapter, students examine the evolution and natural hazards of thunderstorms and associated weather phenomena. In the last chapter, “The Cryosphere and Your Community,” students examine the effects on the world’s glaciers in the event of a global temperature increase.

Field tested and content reviewed, EarthComm™ is part of AGI's ongoing efforts at implementing effective Earth Science education reform. Other modules in the EarthComm™ curriculum program are Earth’s Dynamic Geosphere, Understanding Your Environment, Earth’s Natural Resources, and Earth System Evolution. AGI has also developed a comprehensive teacher guide, materials kits, and web site ( for each EarthComm™ module.

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 is currently developing a comprehensive curriculum program for middle schools, Investigating Earth Systems™, which is commercially available through It’s About Time Publishing ( At the college level, we offer the AGI/NAGT Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology  (fifth edition). For more than 30 years, AGI has administrated the Minority Geoscience Scholarship and Mentoring Program to maintain and increase the number of underrepresented ethnic-minority students in the geosciences. For more information about these programs, including a comprehensive brochure that includes a sample activity from AGI’s EarthComm™ or Investigating Earth Systems™ programs, visit the AGI web site,, or contact Dr. Michael J. Smith, AGI Education Director, at

The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 37 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,

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