Earth science or geoscience studies the structure, composition, evolution and physical and chemical properties of the Earth. Understanding these phenomena is crucial to maintaining human life on our planet. Geoscience is key to securing the resources which are essential for society: energy, minerals, water and food.  

Even though it is vital for our life, geoscience is not a core subject in public education. However, if young people are introduced to the Earth’s processes and the human effect on our planet at an early age, they will develop critical and responsible thinking when they become adults.

Within the framework of the ENGIE project, an online course for teachers in the areas of geoscience and geography has been developed. With a special emphasis on gender, the course offers free and comprehensive resources to teach geoscience in an attractive way, with the ultimate goal of raising the interest of secondary school students in related topics.  

The course is divided into six modules, focusing on topics which have high relevance today and to which people of any age can relate in their daily life:

Climate Change

Over the last ten years, Europe has faced sharp increase in expenditure on disaster relief and emergency adaptation due to the impacts caused by the increased severity and frequency of natural phenomena related to climate change. Local consequences of habitat destruction combined with finite freshwater availability and food scarcity place significant pressures on the available ecological space. There is broad interest in assessing climate change risks and vulnerabilities since the latter has already led to many impacts on environmental systems and society, including destabilising security.  Increased temperatures have resulted in habitat destruction, acidification and massive loss of nutrients in storm run-off water. Freshwater systems are especially vulnerable to climate change due to their isolation and physical fragmentation within the terrestrial landscape and, more importantly, human unsustainable exploitation practices within their catchments. Changes in climate and precipitation patterns influence natural forests, agriculture and food security. 

The current IPCC report draws our attention to the future with expected increased temperatures. However, current measures are not enough to remediate the impacts of the past, and drastically new thinking and approaches are needed to secure a sustainable future for the next generations without leaving anyone behind. In this module, examples of the impacts of climate change are presented and ways of potential mitigation and adaptation are discussed.

Photo: Malgorzata Drwila, EAGE/EFG 2019. 

Natural Hazards

Natural hazards are induced by natural phenomena such as landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, tsunamis, droughts and floods. Natural phenomena occur at irregular intervals and varying intensities. There are regions and locations which are more at risk than others, depending on factors such as geology, topography, and proximity of settlements and infrastructure to hazard sources. Natural hazards may be interrelated and may have global effects. Natural hazards often lead to disasters. The risk posed by a natural hazard is directly proportional to the population density in the area vulnerable to the risk. As our world develops, cities will grow, the population will rise and accordingly, exposure of lives and property to disasters will increase, although not evenly. Although exposure will increase, proper administration of policies and application of science and technology can reduce vulnerability and risk.

 In this module different types of natural hazards are introduced and recommendations are made for teaching and communicating these phenomena.

Photo: Alabi Adefemi, EAGE/EFG 2016, Erosion vs Geomatics.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy refers to the inner heat of Earth. As an energy source, it is widely known for its reliable, weather-independent and renewable nature. It is commonly used in many countries for power generation purposes and heat applications including heat pumps. At the same time, geothermal energy generates significant socio-economic and environmental benefits when compared to other energy sources.

Geothermal energy comes from the inner heat of Earth, which originates mostly from the decay of radioactive elements. The heat flows towards the surface and presents a great source of energy for us. Temperature increases with depth, but not at a uniform rate. The ratio of the increase in heat and depth (geothermal gradient) is higher at places where the Earth’s crust is thinner and the heat source is closer to the surface. These locations offer good opportunities to utilise geothermal energy, but geothermal is a huge, practically inexhaustible energy source present all over the world. Within this module, the basic concepts of geothermal energy, and its use and classification are outlined. Potential more complex, innovative, utilisations like combining energy production with metal extraction are also discussed.

Photo: Tamás Miklovicz (for LPRC in 2018). Strokkur, Iceland.

Mineral Raw Materials

Mineral raw materials are mineral constituents of the earth’s crust which are of economic value. Securing a sustainable supply of raw materials is a key priority for the economy. They form a strong industrial base, producing a broad range of goods and applications used in everyday life and modern technologies. Raw materials are particularly crucial for the development of modern environmentally friendly technologies. Without them, there wouldn’t be any smartphones, laptops, or cars.

The types of mineral raw materials are ores, industrial minerals, precious minerals, construction minerals and fossil energy resources. From the ores we produce metals. Industrial minerals are used for a wide range of purposes like producing cement or fertilizers. In this module examples are presented for certain metallic mineral resources and constrcution materials. Management of mine waste and future directions of mining are also touched.

Photo: Camille Thomasset, EAGE/EFG 2019, The Solution of the Student Hammer in the 21st Century.

Teaching Methods for Geosciences

Geoscience is an integrated science that brings together mathematics, geography, biology, chemistry, and physics as they apply to the workings of the Earth system. Engaging students in learning about the Earth supports the development of problem solving and critical thinking skills and highlights the importance of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) careers to society. 

Supplementing or replacing lectures with in-class exercises allow students to think about lecture information and learn collaboratively. Active engagement of students is important both for learning of content and improving their attitudes toward science. In this module, some tips are proposed on activities that can be complementary to the existing approaches. A few basic topics of geology are also presented, with ideas on how to teach them in an interesting and attractive way.

Photo: Ahmad Gholami  EAGE/EFG 2018, Class in the desert.

Gender Aspects in Geosciences

The gender pattern in geosciences and the related engineering sectors is imbalanced. It is generally characterised by male stereotypes in almost every business sector related to geoscience and at all levels within organisations (especially senior management). However, studies confirm that diverse teams, including and especially in terms of gender, are more creative and innovative. Low participation of women in the raw materials sectors is influencing negatively not only their own socioeconomic status, but also the development of companies and even the economies of countries.

In this module, a short introduction to the gender theory is presented with some key elements in relation to geosciences. The focus is on some basic theoretical concepts, such as the difference between social gender and biological sex and the historical and cultural context of gender. In relation to geosciences, the gendered differences in geo-education in Europe are outlined and compared with STEM fields in general. Recommendations are also given on how to develop strategies for achieving gender equality in education and employment in geoscience and related engineering fields and how to teach inclusively.

Photo: Aurelian Roeser EAGE/EFG 2019. 

ENGIE conference: Learning from the ground: Why geosciences matter for future generations

Even though it is vital for our life, geoscience is not a core subject in public education. However, the knowledge of geosciences helps us to manage energy, minerals and water – the resources which are essential for human life. The basic aim of this conference is to emphasise the importance of geosciences for future generations. Topics which have high relevance and interest nowadays will be discussed and the gender aspects of geo-professions will also be touched on. 

The event was organised under the umbrella of the first International Geodiversity Day and the European Year of Youth 2022, on the 6th of October in Brussels. 

The module welcomes school students, educators, policy makers, media representatives and anybody else interested in Earth sciences.

In total, the course offers more than 20 hours of teaching material.  

Note that we do not offer certification as our aim is not to test teachers’ knowledge but to help you teach geoscience in an attractive way. You are free to follow only certain modules or the whole course.

Our online course is freely accessible to anybody who is interested in Earth sciences! 

Click here to register for our free course!