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Not just a load of old rocks

Chris King looks at a website that puts impact into earth science teaching

Investigating dinosaur breath and making an erupting wax volcano are just two of the activities from the Joint Earth Science Education Initiative website, launched at the annual meeting of the Association for Science Education. The website is designed to help chemistry, biology and physics teachers brighten up their earth science teaching and to correct misconceptions commonly found in science textbooks. The initiative is supported by the Royal Society, the ASE and the Geological Society, with funding from the UK Offshore Operators Association (the umbrella organisation for the offshore oil industry).

Recent research has shown that many science teachers are not teaching the earth science component of the national curriculum very well and that this is compounded by the poor quality of many textbooks. As one teacher reported: "We find it difficult to teach earth science at our school because none of us knows much about it - this website will make a big difference."

The JESEI initiative, supported by the earth Science Education Unit (ESEU) has targeted these issues to have a direct impact on the way earth science is taught in our classrooms. The activities are prepared by specialists from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Biology and the Institute of Physics. Scientists from the Earth Science Teachers' Association were involved at every stage.

The activities cover key areas that science teachers say they find difficult to teach, including the rock cycle, the carbon cycle, plate tectonics and rock formation processes. All the activities can be downloaded free from the JESEI website at

With facilitators based throughout England and Wales, ESEUis bringing many of these activities directly to secondary science departments. The range of 90-minute workshops, offered in half-day, full-day or twilight sessions free to schools, incorporates many of the JESEI activities, which are investigated, explained and then used to increase the background knowledge and relevance of earth science to teachers. The workshops have been presented to thousands of science teachers and PGCE students during the past three years, with excellent evaluations.

Details from the ESEU administrator in the Education Department at Keele University (Tel: 01782 584437) or visit the website

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