Teaching Gaia: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Enhancing

Science Education in the K-12 Classroom

 

 

Angela Rossier and Brian E. Hagenbuch

STEMTEC Scholar and Assistant Professor of Biology

Holyoke Community College

Holyoke, MA 01040

 

 

            Gaia theory proposes that the Earth operates as a self-regulating and self-sustaining living system.  The theory, first proposed by James Lovelock in the 1970s, has become increasingly accepted in the scientific community, especially in the fields of earth systems science and geophysiology.  While a considerable amount of technical literature has been published on the Gaia theory, little has been done to incorporate the theory into an educational curriculum.  Traditional K-12 science classes generally study geology, biology, physics, and chemistry as separate and distinct disciplines.  We believe that the Gaia theory, however, represents a holistic, cross-disciplinary educational model that can enhance student understanding of science, especially in the K-12 classroom.

 

            In this poster presentation, we sought to determine how the concepts of Gaia, ecology, and the web of life could be incorporated into the K-12 classroom. Although originally designed as a presentation for fourth grade students as part of a STEMTEC Science and Math Teaching course at Holyoke Community College, the poster depicts illustrations and text that are suitable for K-12 students. 

 

The display is a storybook-style environmental science curriculum that is intended to introduce a variety of scientific and ecological concepts to students. The poster emphasizes the complex interrelationships between the earth, air, water, flora, fauna, and human activity. Our goal was to promote a greater understanding of the relationships between organisms and the non-living environment for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms.

 

Accompanying the poster presentation is an annotated bibliography of a broad selection of environmental literature suitable for K-12 students, as well as available teachers’ manuals.  This project (both the multiple-poster presentation and the annotated bibliography) evolved through three semesters and two STEMTEC courses at Holyoke Community College: A first-year Honors learning community on nature and ecology, an Honors Colloquium on Gaia, and a STEMTEC course on Science and Math Teaching.