American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Review of Geoscience Education Programs in the Federal Government (8-7-98)

With the growing trend of low science and mathematics test scores among United States students, many governmental agencies have taken the initiative to provide for the support of science education.  In particular, several departments have invested time and money to advance the understanding of the role of geoscience in today's society.  By implementing such projects, the federal government and the scientific community hopes to broaden student participation in the technical field.  The following information gives teachers and administrators the opportunity to supplement their educational program with some interesting programs.

Department of Agriculture
Although the Department of Agriculture (USDA) seems unlikely to promote geoscience education, it does in fact provide support for the natural sciences.  Through the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Services, the USDA displays information on a variety of scientific issues.  In depth, the Cooperative program contains an information database on environmental and natural resource programs.  Moreover, the Forest Service, a branch within the USDA, offers conservation education  and the Natural Resources Conservation Service conducts volunteer programs that enhance the protection of natural resources.

Department of Commerce
From the Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed two notable programs for geoscience education.  The GLOBE program provides the opportunity for students and teachers from 70 countries and over 5,000 schools to work with scientists to learn more about the global environment.  In addition to GLOBE, NOAA offers sources of funding for geoscience/natural science research.

Department of Defense
The Department of Defense offers a variety of educational links to the many projects it supports.  In particular, the department maintains a section on innovative science experiments for the classroom and conducts an environmental research and development program.  For more information on defense-related R&D funding for the geosciences, see a related report on this website.

Department of Education
The Department of Education provides links to the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC).  Money from the department supports the Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education (CSMEE) which is part of the ERIC system.  CSMEE serves as an information tool for those interested in math and science education.  Specifically, this site offers articles for teachers on a variety of subjects, including but not limited to, teaching field science, understanding student's learning styles, and achieving academic standards.

Department of Energy
The Department of Energy provides federal support for energy-related education.  Recently, former Secretary Federico Pena announced the award of $2.74 million in federal money to various professor-student research teams at approximately 17 higher education facilities.  By performing energy-related research on coal, the groups intend to add new information to the Vision 21 concept of lowered greenhouse gas emissions.  In terms of middle school education, the department offers various energy lab projects for kids.  Finally, students and teachers can check out the science arcade and discover other science and educational resources.

Department of the Interior
 Through the Department of the Interior, students and teachers can participate in a wide variety of  programs that include workshops, classroom activities packages, and field trips.  In particular, the  Bureau of Land Management's homepage provides teacher resources, and the United States Geological Survey's educational page contains an index of lesson activities, earth science documents, and a special volcano section. 

Environmental Protection Agency
In an attempt to educate the public about the Earth's various resources, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established several effective programs.  In its Office of Water- Wetlands Division, EPA offers information on a wetlands education system.  Furthermore, the Office of Water, through the Watershed Academy, offers training classes for the public to learn more about the watershed environment.  In addition, EPA sponsors Earth Vision, a computation science education project aimed at introducing students and teachers to environmental modeling.  EPA also provides support for science education through funding.  Specifically, EPA has given over $1 million in education grants to various institutions in the Midwest for the past seven years.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) maintains a special interest in science education.  Since the decline of students' test scores in math and science, NASA has formulated programs dealing with the improvement of American knowledge in the sciences.  NASA's whole vision rests on allowing access to their various missions.  NASA research can be utilized in programs that improve teacher skills in the sciences and their findings can also be used in providing teaching materials to the classroom.  For other NASA science educational programs, visit their website.

Sources: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration 

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by Shannon Clark, AGI Government Affairs Intern.

Posted August 7, 1998

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