Mission. The GEODE Initiative at Northwestern University is dedicated to improving public understanding of our world through education about the Earth’s physical, biological, and social systems. Toward that end, the GEODE Initiative is engaged in a program of integrated research and development in the areas of learning, teaching and educational reform. The GEODE Initiative develops and studies curriculum, software, and teacher professional development.
Development. The GEODE Initiative’s approach to the design of learning experiences is based on contemporary research on learning. The GEODE Initiative uses an instructional design approach called learning-for-use, which places an emphasis on motivating students to learn based on the value of what they are learning for future use and on helping them to understand how to use what they are learning by giving them the opportunity to apply it as part of the learning process. Therefore, most of the GEODE Initiative’s curricula are organized around a real world case or a project with a meaningful goal.
The GEODE Initiative’s project-based and case-based approaches call for students to learn through authentic experiences. One particular authentic activity—inquiry with data—is central to the GEODE Initiative’s work. Visualization and analysis of geographic data play substantial roles in GEODE Initiative designs. The acronym GEODE refers to this use of geographic data in education.
Research. The GEODE Initiative views the design and implementation of educational experiences for students and teachers as an opportunity to conduct research on learning, teaching, and educational reform. GEODE Initiative research projects are exploring student motivation and learning in project-based curricula, how teachers use and adapt instructional materials and technology, and the effectiveness of different approaches to professional development for teachers.
Investigations in Environmental Science: A Case-based Approach to the Study of Environmental Systems (CASES) is a high school environmental science course, developed with NSF funding and published in 2006. Using a case-based pedagogical approach, CASES engages students in investigations of real-world tensions between the growing human demand for resources and sustainability of ecosystems. Students use geographic information system (GIS) software throughout the year to conduct investigations with real world geographic data, and they learn a systematic process for assessing and weighing environmental impacts in decision-making. CASES is available from It's About Time Herff-Jones Education Division.
Project-Based Inquiry Science (PBIS) is a comprehensive, three-year middle school science curriculum developed by a multi-institutional team including Northwestern, the University of Michigan, and Georgia Tech. The GEODE Initiative developed two 8-week units on Earth science for PBIS, the first of which will be published in Spring 2007. PBIS has been in use in New York City schools since 2005 and was adopted as the 6th grade science curriculum for all of Region 9 (Manhattan) in 2006.
My World GIS™ is a geographic information system designed specifically for use in grades 6-16. Published originally in 2004 by PASCO Scientific, My World GIS was voted one of the best resources for earth science education by the readers of eSchool News and was selected by the state of Maine for inclusion on the laptop computers that are issued to all middle school students in the state. My World GIS version 4.1, scheduled for release in Spring 2007, will be available in 7 languages.
GEODE Earth Science is an online high school earth science course with virtual labs in which students conduct investigations with geoscience data using My World GIS. GEODE Earth Science was developed with the support of the Illinois Virtual High School (IVHS) and is currently being offered by both IVHS and Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, through its accredited high school program.
The Meaningful Science Consortium (MSC)is funded by the Chicago Public Schools with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to collaborate with high schools on large-scale instructional reform in science. MSC provides participating schools with a 9-11th grade vertically-integrated science curriculum, intensive professional development, instructional coaching, and assessments. MSC’s three-year curriculum consists entirely of inquiry-based materials, including GEODE’s CASES environmental science curriculum at the 9th grade. The GEODE Initiative is the lead institution in the consortium, which also includes the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The Impact of Online Professional Development (IOPD) is an NSF-funded research study that is conducting a randomized trial to determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of face-to-face and online professional development. The participants in the study are teachers who will be teaching the GEODE-developed CASES curriculum in the 2007-8 and 2008-9 school years. The GEODE Initiative is developing and implementing the online and face-to-face professional development for the study. The research is being conducted in collaboration with collaborators in the School of Education at the University of Michigan.
The Center for Curriculum Materials in Science (CCMS) is an NSF-funded Center for Learning and Teaching that conducts research on the design, implementation, and evaluation of science curriculum. It includes researchers at Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, and AAAS Project 2061, the lead institution in CCMS. Within the GEODE Initiative, CCMS graduate students and postdocs are conducting research on student learning and motivation and adaptation of curriculum by teachers.
The Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC) brings together researchers in psychology, education, computer science, and neuroscience to study spatial cognition and how to improve it. As part of SILC, the GEODE Initiative is conducting studies of the effect of spatial abilities on students’ learning from GIS-infused curricula and, conversely the effect of these curricula on students’ spatial abilities. SILC is a multi-institution Sciences of Learning Center sponsored by NSF that includes Temple, Penn, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern.
Developing the Next Generation of Middle School Science Materials is an NSF-funded instructional materials development project that is using a goals-driven development approach to create a three-year, project-based science curriculum for middle school. Titled Investigating and Questioning Our World through Science and Technology (IQWST), this curriculum will include a chemistry, physics, biology, and earth science unit each year. Scheduled for publication in 2010, this curriculum will set a new standard for the way curriculum can help students develop conceptual understanding and scientific inquiry skills across science content areas and grade levels. The GEODE Initiative is developing the earth science units for IQWST.
GLOBE Watershed Dynamics Project is creating software, instructional materials, and professional development that will enable middle and high school students to conduct open-ended investigations of their local watersheds using near-time and real-time data from the national Hydrologic Information System being developed by the University of Texas in collaboration with the San Diego Supercomputing Center. This project is funded by NSF’s Global Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program and will be disseminated through the international GLOBE Program with the support of NSF, NASA, and GLOBE’s international partners.
The Chicagoland Road Salt Study is a science education project that is engaging students throughout the Chicago area in original research on the build-up of salt in roadside habitats. Middle and high school students are collecting data on soil salinity using a uniform protocol to assess the seasonal variation in soil salinity as a result of salt being applied as a de-icing agent. Students share this data via the web and then analyze it using My World GIS. This project is being funded through a BP Leaders award.
The GEODE Initiative is directed by Daniel Edelson, Ph.D, who established the Initiative in 2004 to provide a common identity and infrastructure for his earth and environmental science education efforts. Edelson is an associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy with a joint appointment in Computer Science. Edelson has been engaged in educational research and development at Northwestern University since the founding of the Institute for the Learning Sciences there in1989 and is internationally known for his work in curriculum and learning technologies. He served as the chair of the Learning Sciences Program at Northwestern from 2001-4 and has served on the Board of the International Society of the Learning Sciences since its inception in 2002.
The GEODE Initiative has three associate directors:
Meridith Bruozas joined the GEODE Initiative in 2002 and oversees the Investigations in Environmental Science projects. She specializes in the design and implementation of curriculum and professional development for teachers. Bruozas came to Northwestern from the John G. Shedd Aquarium, in Chicago, where she designed and delivered educational programs on marine and aquatic ecosystems. She is an experienced high school science teacher, who has taught physical science, earth science, and biology. Bruozas will complete her M.A. in the Learning Sciences at Northwestern in Spring 2007.
Kemi Jona, Ph.D., joined the GEODE Initiative in 2004. Jona is responsible for the GEODE Earth Science, GLOBE and IQWST development projects. He specializes in curriculum design and online learning. Jona is a research associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy with a courtesy appointment in Computer Science. Prior to joining the GEODE Initiative, he was the Director of Academic Programs for the West Coast Campus of Carnegie-Mellon University. Before that, he spent 10 years in the e-learning industry designing learning environments for corporations and universities, including Columbia, Cornell, and Northwestern. He also works with Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies and Center for Talent Development, and he is the director of the Office for STEM Education Partnerships at Northwestern.
Steven McGee, MBA, Ph.D, joined the GEODE Initiative in 2006 to become the Associate Director of the Meaningful Science Consortium. He specializes in research, assessment, and instructional design. McGee is a research associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. He came to Northwestern from Loyola University Chicago, where he was the Director of Learning Technologies and Assessment. Before that, he was the Chief R&D Officer for the Center for Educational Technologies (CET), home of the NASA Classroom of the Future, at Wheeling Jesuit University.