Science teacher recieves grant for Honors Geology

Science teacher Wendy Van Norden received a grant for about $15,000 from the National Science Foundation at the end of the last school year.

She will use the money to continue work from a previous $83,000 grant from UCLA. Van Norden’s goal is to make geology a subject available for students who are especially passionate about science in schools throughout the state of California and the rest of the country.

The reason it is so important that there is a challenging Honors Geology course geared for high school students is because many students who are good at science chose not to take geology in high school and therefore do not take it in college, Van Norden said.

This leaves the United States with a desperate need for geologists, she said. Van Norden also said that the reason so many students do not take geology is because most geology courses (with Harvard-Westlake as an exception) do not grant lab credit for the course.

Van Norden received her first grant three years ago after being approached by a representative of the Geoscience Education at the National Science Foundation, who thought Van Norden might be interested in creating an Honors Geology class and then using the course as a model.

Since Van Norden was extremely interested in putting together an Honors Geology course, she applied for a grant at UCLA and collaborated with UCLA to construct a course in which students would receive college credit. The goal was not just to piece together the course, but also to display this model to other educators around the state and the country, so that they might be able to implement this Honors Geology course. Van Norden also used her grant to give a few workshops, she said.

At the end of last year, Van Norden gave the National Science Foundation, her report on what she had created. With her grant from UCLA, Van Norden established a course that would give students lab credit and an extra GPA point. Her class was officially classified as an Honors class according to the UC system.

The day after Van Norden turned in her grant report she received an e-mail from the National Science Foundation asking her to apply for more money to do more workshops.

Subsequently, Van Norden wrote a second grant so she could do more workshops specifically in California.

San Diego public schools are looking to try her model. She believes this could be beneficial because other schools in the state could see how her model works in public schools.

Van Norden has already started giving more workshops on the second grant and is scheduled to do more.

“High schools give students the opportunity to take Earth Sciences, which include meteorology, oceanography and astronomy,” she said.

She also hopes that “people go to college realizing there are more sciences then simply biology, chemistry and physics.”