An ISTAT Workshop

Living on the Fault Line: Earthquakes, the Web, and the Science Probe

Jennifer Fong knew that 9th grade teachers throughout SFUSD were scrambling for classroom resources to support newly adopted 9th grade science textbooks this year. A 9th grade teacher at Mission High School and a member of the ISTAT team, Fong also knew that there were great lessons, activities, and background materials available on Earth science topics on the Web. She wanted to work with ISTAT partners to pull together a comprehensive Web resource to help teachers use the new textbooks in the classroom along with high-quality on-line and hands-on activities. Fong demonstrating
Jennifer Fong shares a demonstration on volcanoes.
teachers plotting epicenter
Teachers work in groups to pinpoint the
epicenter of an earthquake.
Fong and colleagues David Barrios (Galileo Academy) and Eric Lewis (Mission High School) worked with Lind Gee (Berkeley Seismological Laboratory) and Jennifer Johnson (UC Museum of Paleontology) to create a sample unit outline. Next, they created a grid that matched key topics with Probe chapters, classroom activities and lessons, and content resources for the teacher and posted it on-line Finally, they worked with SFUSD partners Carmelo Sgarlato, Alex Insaurralde and Pat Spencer to organize a one-day workshop showcasing the unit outline and supporting materials, and offer up-to-date-information on earthquakes.
In November, 20 teachers from 13 schools throughout the District gathered for the workshop. For the majority of these teachers (70%), the highest level of science, mathematics, or engineering education was the undergraduate level (57% in biology). 45% were in their first 5 years of teaching and 20% had taught over 20 years. Most of the teachers had taught earth sciences at some point in their career (65%) and 40% had taught it within the last year. Still, only 35% expressed "confidence" in their ability to teach about earthquakes and plate tectonics. This was confirmed in the responses to the pre-workshop questionnaire, which contained 3 simple questions. Only 25% of the teachers answered all three questions correctly, while 45% answered less than half (the remaining 30% scored in between). teachers sharing activities
Teachers explore the ISTAT resource page
and share their favorite activities.
Lind teaching
Lind Gee introduces the sample unit outline and web page,
and offers up-to-date information on seismology.
Guided by Jennifer Fong and Lind Gee, participants learned about P and S waves by doing a simple activity appropriate for the classroom, and then learned to locate the epicenter of an earthquake using a paper and pen activity that drew on graphing and measurement skills. They spent time exploring the unit outline and resources on the web, tried hands-on, on-line and textbook activities, and shared successful activities and strategies from their own classrooms. Teachers left the workshop armed with maps and materials for teaching seismology.
At the end of the workshop, we asked the teachers to comment on the activities and on the ISTAT Web page. 100% of the teachers indicated that they would use the ISTAT web pages for lesson planning or for student activities. Teacher comments included:
  • "I will use what I learned today to teach a unit on geology. Definitely I'll use the website a great deal—lots of activities! I'll also use the demonstration shown in class. The suggested outine is very helpful also."
  • "The ISTAT web pages are full of activities, good suggestions. Also, lots of basic information."
  • "Information found [on the ISTAT web pages] is teacher friendly and easily accessible."
hands-on convection activity
Teachers try a hands-on activity
about convection currents.