For the young, geology can come alive with some beach sand, a magnifying glass and a trained eye. This is part of what assistant geology professor Mary Leech of Woodside hopes to accomplish with "Science Education Partners in Geosciences," a program starting at San Francisco State University in September.
The program will require of its SFSU students more than a passing interest in teaching science to elementary school kids. Student teams, in partnership with teachers from grades 3 through 6 in the San Francisco Unified School District, will prepare six lesson plans over the semester.
Along the way, topics of investigation will include the students' own fundamental understanding of science, misconceptions about science among kids and ways to address them, learning styles, teaching styles, and cognitive development.
Getting science right for kids and getting it right early can lay the groundwork for a scientific career, Ms. Leech says. College can be too late.
She recalls SFSU students in her general earth-science course who said they've missed their callings. "Wow," she says they told her, "If I had known about geology when I first came to college, I wouldn't have majored in X, Y or Z."
"You have to get lucky and hope they take an engaging course as a (college) freshman or sophomore," she adds. "I think the best solution is to try and reach them all along the way, in elementary, middle and high school."
"We're falling behind," she says of the nation's science talent. "The government needs to fund science far more than it has been ... and that should be extended to science education programs at all levels."