Science Educator Profile | Steve Getty

Featured work: Carbon Connections (NASA) and Understanding Student Motivation (NSF)

How long have you been with BSCS?

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been working at BSCS since November, 2001. That’s over 11 years!

What is your area of emphasis?

I came to BSCS when we were starting to do more work in Earth Sciences. I’ve contributed to a variety of projects in primary and secondary education in Earth Sciences.
I’ve also been a principal investigator or project lead on BSCS research projects where we study student achievement. That’s been great. We’re very excited about some of the research results that we’re finding. 

How/when did you become interested in the field of science education?

Well, much of my background was in research, where I studied systems in earth and life sciences. But I always loved to teach a class or two when I had a chance, so I’ve always been interested in science education. 

It was great to come to BSCS to be involved in projects in curriculum development, research, and professional development. I hope that some of our research will inform policy. I also really like working with teachers when I get a chance. The work that they do with students is where the rubber hits the road.

What is your education background?

I have a B.S. in Earth Sciences from the University of Notre Dame. I received a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. My field of research was studying the time-scales of plate tectonics and how mountain belts form. As a postdoc, I had wonderful opportunities to join excellent tectonics teams at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

I was a Senior Research Scientist at the University of New Mexico before coming to Colorado Springs as a Visiting Professor of Geology at Colorado College. This led right to BSCS! 

Why is science education important in our lives?

Science helps us understand how things work, and why.

Science also gives us a lens to see where we should be going, and what we should be learning about. This includes very practical things in science and society as well, such as how to use earth's resources responsibly, generate energy, or develop medicines for diseases. 

Science also includes understanding what lies beyond Earth, either in our solar system or much beyond.  

What are you working on at BSCS right now, and with whom?

I’m really excited about several projects.

For example, we’re just completing a large project with NASA developing a set of high school, online units focused on the carbon cycle and climate science. It’s called Carbon Connections. The content in these 3 units, developed in partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting, aligns really well with Biology, Earth Sciences, or Environmental Sciences courses.

In research, I’m also on a BSCS team finishing a large clinical trial of the BSCS Inquiry-based Science program for high school students. The results are very interesting. 

BSCS and I are also leading a team in a new project supported by the National Science Foundation to measure factors related to student motivation in science and math. This is in collaboration with Joe Taylor at BSCS, and Co-PI’s from James Madison University and the University of Virginia. We will collect evidence for a new measure of student motivation from middle school to early college in parts of New England, Virginia, Colorado, and California. There has been an important focus on “achievement gaps” but, at the same time, we don’t know much whether there is also a “motivation gap.” That’s one project objective.

Who will this work benefit and how does this help bring our mission to life (for you)?
I hope that I can contribute to the work we do at BSCS, and to science education. But ultimately, I hope that some of the work I’ve done at BSCS really helps teachers and students around the country. That’s a place we can make a large impact.

Have you been published recently in a science journal or publication?
My most recent publication was in the journal for the NABT, the National Association of Biology Teachers. The paper highlights a great activity in one of our programs regarding how the movement of tectonic plates between North and South America is an important driver of evolution and biogeography - the distribution of species that we see today. [To download the American Biology Teacher article, "Explaining Biogeographic Data: Evidence for Evolution" (Feb 2009), click here.]

Learn more about Carbon Connections and Understanding Student Motivation.

Carbon Connections is generously supported by NASA and its Global Climate Change Education (GCCE) project, Award #NNX10AB56A.

Understanding Student Motivation is funded by the National Science Foundation, Grant #DRL-1228661.

BSCS is proud to partner with like-minded organizations committed to making a difference in science education.