Contact: Michael J. Smith (207) 230-0046
October 30, 2001

AGI To Create Innovative Earth Systems Textbook For Middle Schools

ALEXANDRIA,VA — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the American Geological Institute (AGI) a $1.7 million grant 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 upon the modular Investigating Earth Systems™ program recently released by AGI. “The CUES Project offers another exciting opportunity for AGI and its Member Societies to collaborate on a program that has great potential to improve Earth science education at the middle grades” says Michael Smith, AGI Director of Education.

    Smith, who will serve as Principal Investigator, says that the CUES textbook will be comprehensive in its treatment of the Earth and space content standards of the National Science Education Standards. The book will also feature innovative approaches for helping students develop understandings of Earth systems concepts, scientific inquiry, and the nature of science.

    The primary goal of the project is to stimulate and nourish the natural curiosity that most people possess. “Textbooks stuffed with dry content abound,” notes Smith. “We want students to experience the wonder of the Earth sciences, and to hear directly from scientists about how Earth science unfolds in the field, in the lab, and wherever our work takes us.” CUES will feature more than 50 “profiles in Earth system science.” These inquiry narratives will be written by scientists about the fundamental questions they are exploring and the ways they use Earth science to tackle issues that confront society. In addition to the inquiry narratives, CUES will feature 40 guided inquiry investigations, extended student-driven research projects on local issues, as well as four videos that provide additional profiles of Earth scientists at work. CUES will resolve a major issue for many school districts – the paucity of inquiry-driven textbooks.

    The CUES Project team includes Norm Lederman, Professor of Science Education at the Illinois Institute of Technology and John Southard, Emeritus Professor of Geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who will join Smith as Co-Principal Investigators. Martin Rusek of the Universities Space Research Association will assist with the Earth systems science emphasis of the project, and Colin Mably, a curriculum developer with Educational Visions of La Plata, Maryland (and director of the AGI Careers for Geoscientists video) will be responsible for compiling the professional development and content videos for CUES. AGI Education Program Manager Matthew Smith will serve as Project Manager of CUES. The effectiveness of the materials and usefulness to students in pilot testing and national field testing will be evaluated by the Program Evaluation and Research Group at Lesley College in Cambridge, MA. Following thorough field testing and editing, CUES will be made available commercially for the 2005-2006 school year by It’s About Time Publishing of Armonk, NY, publishers of research-based field tested secondary mathematics and science curricula.

    AGI has been a leader in geoscience education for four decades. The National Science Foundation is providing funding to develop the CUES program under Grant ESI 0095938. 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 ( For more information about these and other Earth science education 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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