Who We Are
The Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA) is a NASA, NSF and NOAA-supported program implemented by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) to improve the quality of geoscience instruction for pre-service and in-service K-12 teachers. Started in 2000, the program currently includes the participation of 40+ institutions, with over 3,000 teachers having completed an ESSEA course as of fall 2009.
ESSEA is based on a series of online courses for teachers that are offered by participating institutions. These institutions and faculty receive training, technical support, the ability to create and share their own course modules, and join an active community of Earth system science educators.
The inquiry-based courses provide teachers with the content knowledge and tools they need to incorporate Earth system science into their curricula. ESSEA modules are also available on this site as teacher resources.
A typical ESSEA course is 12–16 weeks and includes 3–4 modules on Earth system science topics, which are selected by the course instructor.
The courses deepen teachers’ content knowledge within an inquiry environment through reflection, analysis and self-discovery. They familiarize participants with Earth system analyses and provide a suite of techniques that can be employed to facilitate student learning; these include Jigsaw, Problem-Based Learning, and Group Investigation. Each of these methods takes teachers out of the role of “middle man” (i.e., the deliverer of content) and creates a student-centered classroom.
When faculty set up their ESSEA course, they select the inquiry strategy that they will use: problem- based learning, jigsaw, or group investigation. The course software sets the course up with instructions and assignments specific to each of these inquiry strategies.
Teacher participants in ESSEA courses are engaged as learners in inquiry-guided instruction. Experiencing the effectiveness of the inquiry approach in a teacher’s own learning has been demonstrated to be a powerful motivator to emphasize inquiry in their own classrooms.