Bringing Earth Magnetism Research into the High School Physics Classroom
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
We present our work in progress from an NSF CAREER project that aims to integrate paleomagnetic research and secondary school physics education. The research project is aimed at quantifying the strength and geometry of the Precambrian geomagnetic field. Investigation of the geomagnetic field behavior is crucial for understanding the mechanisms of field generation, and the development of the Earth’s atmosphere and biosphere, and can serve as a focus for connecting high-level Earth science research with a standard physics curriculum. High school science teachers have participated in each summer field and research component of the project, gaining field and laboratory research experience, sets of rock and mineral samples, and classroom-tested laboratory magnetism activities for secondary school physics and earth science courses. We report on three field seasons of teacher field experiences and two years of classroom testing of paleomagnetic research materials merged into physics instruction on magnetism. Students were surveyed before and after dedicated instruction for both perceptions and attitude towards earth science in general, then more specifically on earth history and earth magnetism. Students were also surveyed before and after instruction on major earth system and magnetic concepts and processes, particularly as they relate to paleomagnetic research. Most students surveyed had a strongly positive viewpoint towards the study of Earth history and the importance of studying Earth Sciences in general, but were significantly less drawn towards more specific topics such as mineralogy and magnetism. Students demonstrated understanding of Earth model and the basics of magnetism, as well as the general timing of life, atmospheric development, and magnetic field development. However, detailed knowledge such as the magnetic dynamo, how the magnetic field has changed over time, and connections between earth magnetism and the development of an atmosphere remained largely misunderstood even after specific instruction, laboratory activities, and research examples. Ongoing work is examining the effectiveness of specific classroom and laboratory activities on student perceptions and misconceptions - which models work best to develop deeper understanding and appreciation of paleomagnetic research.