ReaL* Earth Inquiry

Professional Development Program

Advisory Panel Application


On behalf of the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), we would like to invite you to apply to participate in an exciting new initiative to improve Earth science education across the nation!

Program Information and Application

PRI and its Museum of the Earth is a non-profit organization based in Ithaca, New York. Composed of scientists and educators, its outreach program aims to make the Earth and its life—and the science by which we understand it—accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. As part of that mission, we are currently developing a series of Teacher-Friendly Guides to North American Earth System Science. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the project is a five-year initiative that will bring regional and local Earth system science into classrooms across the nation. We welcome your application to participate as a member of our Teacher Advisory Panel for this endeavor.


Transferring scientific principles to circumstances outside the classroom is often difficult for students. The Teacher-Friendly Guides will promote the merging of standard geologic concepts with local geologic history, opening the door to inquiry by allowing teachers and their students to apply basic science concepts to situations outside the classroom’s walls.

At the end of the project, seven guides—based on geographic regions—will exist:

  1. Northeastern (ME, VT, NH, MA, NY, RI, CT, NJ, PA, DE, MD)

  2. Southeastern (DC, VA, WV, KY, NC, SC, TN, GA, AL, FL, MS)

  3. Midwestern (OH, MI, IN, IL, WI, MN, IA)

  4. South Central (KS, MO, OK, AR, TX, LA)

  5. Rocky Mountain (ID, MT, ND, WY, SD, NE)

  6. Southwestern (AZ, UT, CO, NM)

  7. Western (WA, OR, CA, NV, AK, HI)

The guides will be posted for free download at

Topics covered in each guide are: Geologic History of the Region; Rocks; Fossils; Topography; Mineral Resources; Non-Mineral Resources; Environmental Issues; and How to Do Fieldwork. The Northeastern and Southeastern guides are complete; they can be found online here: The current phase of the project is focused on the remaining five guides. Once completed, all guides will be posted online for free download to teachers across the nation.

A library of teacher-created virtual fieldwork experiences (VFEs) will complement the guides. Information about virtual fieldwork and VFEs is available at

The mentored creation process will also serve as a rich professional development opportunity that generates curriculum for teaching very local Earth system science.

The Teacher-Friendly Guides coupled with VFEs will promote the merging of standard geologic concepts with local geologic history, opening the door to inquiry by allowing teachers and their students to apply basic science concepts to situations outside the classroom’s walls.


The Teacher-Friendly Guides and associated online components seek to provide educators with the pedagogic background, content, and support that will enable them to engage students in asking real questions about their own communities. It is hoped that students will learn to apply understanding of Earth systems to their personal lives, to think to ask questions about the origin of the world around them, and to make educated attempts to answer them. Inquiry is driven by the question: Why does this place look the way it does? Further, the guides will encourage addressing specific questions on how students’ decisions (e.g., constructing a home, releasing a pollutant, buying a vehicle, etc.) affect the global environment, providing the ability to apply their Earth systems understandings to their lives in ways that are personally and socially useful, and relate to Earth stewardship.


Critical to the success of the Teacher-Friendly Guides is the feedback from teachers during the development process. By asking for your assistance, we hope to address needs specific to classrooms in your region. 

As members of the Teacher Advisory Panel, responsibilities include:

•Providing guidance early in the development of your region’s guide.

•Providing guidance into the design and implementation of teacher professional development in your region.

•Provide input with regard to special issues found among teachers and schools in your region.

•Provide feedback on the materials being developed.

•Assist with increasing awareness of and the Teacher-Friendly Guides and once completed.

In addition, the Teacher Advisory Panel members will meet once at a site within the region.  Beyond that physical meeting, we will meet periodically through teleconferencing while staying connected with email. For the one-time meeting, a total of $500 per participant will be provided for stipend and expenses.  Only six applicants will be chosen to participate, so the selection process will be quite competitive.

The location of the panel for the Southwestern region will be the R. S. Dietz Museum of Geology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; it will be held on Saturday, March 5, 2011.

The location of the panel for the Rocky Mountain region will be the Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, MT; it will be held on Saturday, April 9, 2011.


We are thrilled by the opportunity to provide educators with a reference that will introduce local and regional geology into the curriculum, greatly enhancing the teaching of Earth system science across the nation. The Teacher-Friendly Guides and virtual fieldwork experiences will introduce an exciting new chapter in the teaching of Earth science.  We hope that you agree!  This letter serves as an invitation to apply to be a member of our Teacher Advisory Panel.

Thank you very much for your time. We hope that you can help by participating in the Teacher-Friendly Guide Teacher Advisory Panel.  Please fill out the form below to apply.  The application deadline is February 1, 2011 for the Southwest Panel and February 15 for the Rocky Mountain Panel. Direct any questions to Christine Besemer Whitaker ( or 1259 Trumansburg Rd. Ithaca, NY 14850).  Thank you so much for your time, and we hope to hear from you soon!



Engage your students in local and regional geoscience!

Robert M. Ross, PhD

Associate Director for Outreach

Don Duggan-Haas, PhD

Education Research Associate

Sara Auer Perry, MS

Geoscience Education Resource Developer

Richard A. Kissel, PhD

Director of Teacher Programs

Christine Besemer Whitaker, MS

Teacher Programs Coordinator

Paleontological Research Institution; 1259 Trumansburg Road; Ithaca, NY 14850-1398