"Discoveries in Planetary Sciences": Turning Press Release Science into Teachable Moments in Higher Ed

N. M. Schneider, D. Brain, P. V. Sada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AGU disciplines are all fields that evolve rapidly, and it can take several years for new advances to work their way into college textbooks. Yet it is important for students to have exposure to these new advances for a number of reasons. In some cases, new work renders older textbook knowledge incorrect or incomplete. In some cases, new discoveries make it possible to emphasize older textbook knowledge in a new way. In all cases, new advances provide exciting and accessible examples of the scientific process in action. But press releases rarely provide these "teachable moments" in either content or format. To bridge the gap between textbooks and new advances in planetary sciences, we have developed content on new discoveries for use by undergraduate instructors. Called 'Discoveries in Planetary Sciences', each new discovery is summarized in a 3-slide PowerPoint presentation. The first slide describes the discovery, the second slide discusses the underlying planetary science concepts, and the third presents the big picture implications of the discovery. A fourth slide includes links to associated press releases, images, and primary sources. This effort is generously sponsored by the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, and the slide sets are available at http://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/. More than twenty slide sets have been released so far covering topics spanning all sub-disciplines of planetary science, with a fall release planned for Spanish translations In this presentation we will discuss our motivation for this project, our implementation approach (from choosing topics to creating the slide sets, to getting them reviewed and released), and give examples of slide sets. We will present information in the form of web statistics on how many educators are using the slide sets, and which topics are most popular. We will also present feedback from educators who have used them in the classroom. The value and popularity of these slide sets in planetary science makes an excellent case for expansion to all AGU disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


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