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Using EarthCache to Promote Placed Based Education in Public Schools
The Michigan Institute for Teacher Excellence Program (MITEP) is professional development program linking teachers of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Jackson school districts with Michigan Tech. The programs goal is to increase the content knowledge and pedagogical skills of educators with limited Earth Science training. Teachers participate in 2 week field courses to learn at Michigan field locations from earth science experts about how the earth works. This course connects Earth Science Literacy Principles Big Ideas and common student misconceptions with standards-based education. During the 2011 field course, we developed and began to implement a three-phased EarthCache model that will provide a geospatial interactive medium for teachers to translate the material they learn in the field to a global audience. MiTEP participants use GPS and Google Earth to navigate to Michigan sites of geo-significance. The participants are then expected to develop their own EarthCache site to be used as pedagogical tool bridging the gap between standards-based classroom learning and unique outdoor experiences. The final phase integrates inquiry based, higher-level learning student activities to EarthCache sites near their own urban communities, or in regional areas such as nature preserves and National Parks. By working together, MiTEP participants are developing a network of regional EarthCache sites and shared lesson plans which explore places familiar to students and connect them to geologic concepts they are learning in school. We believe that the MiTEP EarthCaching model could help teachers emerge as leaders of inquiry style, and place-based educators within their districts.