Preparing Students for Success After Graduation

In a recent article in eCampus News, Laura Ascione lays out ten vital skills that college graduates will need to be successful in the next decade. We are proud to say that all ten of these skills are central to the major and minor programs in the Geological Sciences Department at CCSU:

“1. Sense making: The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.” Both geology and astronomy excel in this area. Whether you are analyzing a variable star’s light curve, examining a rock under a polarizing microscope, or doing a chemical analysis on a soil sample, your ultimate goal is to put together the complete story of that star or geological formation – you are always searching for the deeper meaning.

“2. Social intelligence: The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.” Both the geology and astronomy curriculums are lab-based, and offer myriad opportunities to work as members of a team with fellow students and faculty. This occurs beyond the classroom as well, in research projects, public outreach, and at professional conferences.

“3. Novel and adaptive thinking: Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.” All of our students complete at least one meaningful, novel research project before graduation (some have several, with different faculty mentors!).

“4. Cross cultural competency: The ability to operate in different cultural settings.” We are particularly proud of our students’ dedication to public outreach. Students bring science from the campus to the community, sharing their knowledge with school children, families, retirees, and more. Check out examples of this in previous articles on this blog or our sister blog, ccsuniverse.

“5. Computational thinking: The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data based reasoning.” Not only do students utilize our new computer lab in many of their courses as well as their research, but we have created a new course on Computer Applications to the Geological Sciences!

“6. New media literacy: The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.” Students are encouraged to take part in our Department’s social media efforts (like our blogs, Facebook, and Twitter) and to creatively utilize media in their class presentations. Increasingly professional conferences are also utilizing new media in formal presentations, such as “video posters.” We are proud to say that Professor Jen Piatek is a leader in this area!

“7. Transdisciplinary: Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.” Our students study the natural world through the lenses of geology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science, as well as history, economics, politics, and even popular culture! Our students write effectively and communicate clearly. They are ready for any situation.

“8. Design mindset: The ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.” Lab experiences, field work, and research projects all prepare our students to master this important skill.

“9. Cognitive load management: The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functions.” Making sense of large data sets, distant objects, or the deep past is essential in understanding geology and astronomy. Our students learn how to organize and connect the nitty gritty details while never losing sight of the big picture.

“10. Virtual collaboration: The ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.” Our students collaborate across multiple virtual platforms, from our Blackboard course management system to attending Skype lectures. Some collaborate on research projects with experts across the country, or on other continents.

If you want to become a part of our GSCI team and be prepared for a successful future, check out our numerous major specializations and minor programs and find the one that is a perfect fit for you!

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Students Prepare for Geological Society of America Presentations (Part 1)

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Maxwell Meadows, a senior student in the Department of Geological Sciences, began a study of trace elements enrichment within agricultural farmland of Lebanon, CT under the supervision of Dr. Oyewumi.  He is seen here collecting soil within agricultural farmland with the overall goal of examining trace element enrichment and possible impact on the hydrologic systems. Results of his research will be presented at the forthcoming Northeast Conference of the Geological Society of America in Pittsburgh, PA. You can read Max’s abstract here.

Future El Ed Teachers Make the Grade in Science With the Help of GSCI Faculty

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One of the most important jobs of the Geological Sciences Department is to make sure that ALL students accepted into the Professional Program in Elementary Education at CCSU make the grade in terms of their preparation to teach science to the children of our state. With the recent adoption of NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), this task is more important than ever. Shown above is a poster created by students in Dr. Bednarski’s SCI 412 (Elementary Science Methods) class explaining their work on forces and motion. They created an experiment to test out the various forces involved in playing billiards. They then tested their questions using chop sticks and ping pong balls. Next week they will be creating models of their investigations.

Sharing Our Students’ Success at the CCSU Majors and Minors Fair

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[Mascot Rex the T-Rex, students Nick Zygmont and Sara Poppa, and faculty member Dr. Kristine Larsen representing the department]

While some departments might find it difficult to find volunteers, the Geological Sciences Department found itself with an embarrassment of riches at the annual Majors and Minors Fair at CCSU, with two faculty members and five students rotating through the table over the course of three hours. The faculty and students shared their passion for geology and astronomy with undecided students as well as faculty and staff from other departments on campus. Of course, having free star finders, candy, and Geology and Planetary Science Club bracelets, as well as an inflatable Saturn (plus an appearance from the ever-photogenic department mascot Rex) never hurts. Please join us at the CCSU Open House on October 30, 2016 or the Bristol Rock and Gem Show on October 15 & 16 and learn more about our programs.

Masters Degree in STEM Helps Teachers Blossom

[Ed. note: The Geological Sciences Department at CCSU has two science education specialists, Dr. Marsha Bednarski and Dr. Jeffrey Thomas. They are both central to the program described below]

You only need to watch the evening news or leisurely peruse the internet to understand how important a basic understanding of Science, Technology/Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is in today’s world. Our K-12 teachers play a vital role in educating the next generation in these important areas. But who helps the teachers reach their potential in terms of not only an understanding of the issues themselves, but the practical skills needed to effectively  teach them to others? We do!

The MS STEM Program at CCSU (developed and administered in collaboration with colleagues in the Technology & Engineering Education department) developed to bring together Science, Technology/Engineering, and Mathematics certified teachers from all grade levels to explore how to integrate the STEM disciplines in curriculum, instruction, and assessment for use in their classrooms. Begun in the fall of 2014, this innovative new program enables teachers to build on skills and knowledge they already have and create an exciting trans-disciplinary learning environment for their students.

This program  provides current teachers with the skills necessary to move away from the traditional way of teaching individual STEM subjects towards a more comprehensive way of addressing the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines in order to prepare students for 21st century college skills and career readiness. Our courses are aligned with National and CT state content standards and the Common Core Standards in Language Arts and Mathematics. Note that this is a program for those already certified to teach in Connecticut, so it does not by itself lead to CT state teacher certification or cross-endorsement.

If you or someone you know would benefit from this exciting new program, please contact me via phone (860-832-2943) or email (bednarskim@ccsu.edu). More information is also available on our website (http://www.ccsu.edu/stem/). I look forward to speaking with you.

-Marsha Bednarski