The Geoscience Education Outreach Program (GEOP), which was launched in the fall of 2008 by Cassaundra Meyers, a graduate student in Earth sciences, has met with success this year with 23 presentations at local schools, generating excitement among young students about climate change, earthquakes, volcanoes, rocks and minerals, as well as paleontology and fossils.

GEOP was founded to provide science education directly to local schools by sending volunteer graduate student scientists into the community to teach Earth science. Its mission is to provide this education at no cost to local school groups, fulfill a need for greater science literacy in the K-12 age group, raise awareness of the relevance of Earth science in society, and present role models for children.

Mary Droser, chair of the Department of Earth Sciences, serves as GEOP advisor. Other faculty members involved in the outreach program are Marilyn Kooser, Elizabeth Cochran, David Oglesby, Richard Minnich, Peter Sadler and Michael McKibben.

“In the month before my first quarter of graduate school, I spoke with Dr. Droser about the opportunities for doing geoscience education and outreach in the community,” Meyers said. “Up until that point outreach was conducted mainly through individual professors in the department. As there was no organized means for graduate students to perform outreach in the local community, I decided to create a program that would connect graduate student scientists and K-12 students.”

A GEOP presentation lasts about an hour and takes the form of a short power-point presentation on a topic and one or more hands-on activities, such as describing a rock or mineral, a role-playing game about the fossilization process, or learning about the exact movements in seismic waves.

Meyers hopes GEOP and programs like it will help promote science literacy and make science more accessible to the public.

“We hope to inspire children to learn more about science and perhaps to become scientists themselves,” Meyers said. “Graduate students benefit greatly from the experience of communicating directly with children and the public. GEOP hopes to graduate many generations of articulate scientists who are comfortable talking about science to the public.”

More information can be found at earthsciences.ucr.edu/GEOP.html.