Contact Michael Smith (207) 230-0046
November 9, 2000


ALEXANDRIA, VA — Since late August, teachers in high schools and middle schools across the country have begun working with new curriculum materials, developed by the American Geological Institute (AGI), that challenge their students to take a deeper, harder look at planet Earth. Earth System Science in the Community—Understanding Our Environment (EarthCommTM), a comprehensive program for high schools, and Investigating Earth SystemsTM (IES), nine modules for middle schools, help students develop earth-science concepts and investigative skills. Both programs integrate hands-on and web-based inquiry lessons directly into the curriculum, rather than through a supplemental laboratory booklet. That way, educators believe, students will gain a better understanding of Earth as a complex, dynamic, and ever-changing planet, and will appreciate how their own actions as citizens and stewards can affect the delicate workings of interrelated systems.

The first EarthComm module, released at the start of this academic year, was “Earth’s Dynamic Geosphere,” which helps students understand volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics from an earth systems perspective. The next EarthComm module, “Understanding Your Environment,” will be shipped in mid-December.

The modular approach to the Investigating Earth Systems program helps middle-school teachers construct an integrated science program in their classrooms. These modules address the following topics: soil, fossils, materials and minerals, water resources, energy resources, dynamic planet, climate and weather, oceans, and rocks and landforms. The first two IES modules, “Investigating Soil” and “Investigating Rocks and Landforms,” are in use at this time; others are expected to follow at a pace of one per month throughout the current school year.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and with major support from the AGI Foundation, both curriculum programs underwent extensive testing and development. EarthComm was field-tested by 77 teachers nationwide during the 1999-2000 academic year. Teachers expressed great satisfaction with the content and approach used in the curriculum.

“Support from the AGI Foundation, the Exxon Education Foundation, and the Chevron Corporation was critical to the success of these programs,” states Mike Smith, AGI Director of Education and Principal Investigator of the EarthComm and IES curriculum projects.  “Grants from Chevron and Exxon allowed us to work with university science educators to develop effective models of teacher enhancement, and the AGI Foundation grant provided us with the manpower needed to ensure the scientific accuracy and quality of the finished products.” Continued support from the AGI Foundation and other funding sources will enable AGI to provide sustained professional development programs that help teachers implement these curriculum programs effectively in their classrooms.

Geoscientists and teachers from the AGI Member Societies have been involved throughout the development process — serving as authors, content reviewers, teacher trainers, and enthusiastic promoters of the new curriculum programs. “EarthComm and Investigating Earth Systems are products of the geoscience community and are intended to serve the long-term interests of our society by promoting earth-science literacy,” says Smith.

For more information about EarthComm and Investigating Earth Systems, contact Mike Smith at:, or visit the curriculum publisher’s web site at

The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 35 geoscientific 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 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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