Participants had questions and comments about Edelson’s proposed approach. Roberta Johnson (National Earth Science Teachers Association) asked whether Edelson was targeting a straw man, because, in practice, there are currently a very small number of courses being taught that focus on climate change. She commented that “if you are lucky enough to have an earth science class or an earth systems class, you might be doing a unit on climate change in the context of everything else you are doing.” Edelson agreed, stressing that there should be both short and long-term strategies. In the short term, he said, it is important to work within the current system and integrate climate change into the classroom whenever possible. The long-term strategy he advocates is to address the fundamental problem with earth systems understanding and to treat climate change in the context of both earth and human systems.
Cathy Middlecamp (University of Wisconsin–Madison) questioned where biology, chemistry, and physics fit into Edelson’s approach of fostering geo-literacy, and Ted Willard (American Association for the Advancement of Science) followed with a question about why focusing on geo-literacy is a better strategy than working across all science disciplines. Edelson explained that his approach is intended as a high-level organizational structure that should apply to all sciences in the curricula, pointing out that “we should be designing our education around what we want people to be able to do.”
Nancy Songer (University of Michigan) asked whether it will be possible to take a top-down approach to developing the next generation of science education standards in a way that fuses together the content and practices for all of the sciences—natural, physical, and social—so that priorities can be set through a single concerted effort. Edelson reiterated that significantly altering the current standards effort “would be counterproductive” but stressed that the education community should already be focusing on the next generation of standards beyond the current efforts. He observed that a major breakthrough could come when coordinated standards for disciplines within social studies, which currently do not exist, are developed. Rather than eliminating boundaries between disciplines, Edelson suggested that connections across disciplines should be made well in advance (of articulating standards), so that the next generation of standards is better coordinated and integrated. “I am arguing for a better developed top-level structure, a way of connecting disciplines and making sure that when we set, say, physics priorities, they are connected to earth science priorities, math priorities, and social studies priorities, for that matter.”
David Blockstein (National Council for Science and the Environment) pointed to the Bretherton diagram to ask how the definition of geo-