NESTA Position Statements

The Importance of Earth Science Education K-12

Equal Opportunity in Earth Science Education

The Importance of Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Earth Science Courses


Earth Science plays a unique and essential role in today’s rapidly changing world. It is an integrated study of the Earth’s history, composition, and structure, its atmosphere and oceans, and its environment in space. Knowledge of Earth Science is important because most human activities are related to interaction with the planet Earth. Basic knowledge about the Earth, then, is the key to development of an informed citizenry.

The reasons for teaching Earth Science are numerous: it offers experience in a diverse range of interrelated scientific disciplines; it is closely related to the student’s natural surroundings and offers students subject matter which has direct application to their lives and the world around them. They need only step outdoors to observe and find relevance in concepts learned in the Earth Science classroom.

Because it offers many opportunities to collect data, hypothesize, experiment, and draw conclusions, both with school and in outside environments, Earth Science is a laboratory and activity oriented course. Earth Science integrates many principles of both physical and life sciences. It incorporates and presents concepts often not emphasized in other parts of the science curriculum, such as geologic time and the vastness of space. The teaching of Earth Science allows all students to have a better science background with pertinent information about their surroundings.

Daily society is faced with environmental and economic concerns such as acid rain, water supply, the greenhouse effect, and waste disposal. Civilization is absolutely dependent upon utilization of Earth’s energy, mineral, and human resources. Awareness of natural phenomena such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes requires knowledge of Earth Science. Students who study Earth Science are better prepared to discuss issues and make informed, responsible decisions.

The interdisciplinary curriculum of Earth Science develops and builds on skills learned in earlier grades and closely relates to the student’s everyday experiences. It develops attitudes and problem-solving skills that will be useful throughout life. If tomorrow’s adults are to make wise decisions about Earth and environmental issues, it is vital that today’s students be given the opportunity to study Earth Science at all levels as an integrated part of their education as well as an invaluable part of their high school experience.

Developed by:


Endorsed by:

Council for Elementary Science Education, April 1987

National Science Teachers Association, July 1987

National Association of Geology Teachers, October 1987

American Geological Institute, October 1987

American Geophysical Union, June 1988

Texas Earth Science Teachers Association, February 1988


The National Earth Science Teachers Association is formally committed to the principle of equal opportunity for all persons, without regard or consideration of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ancestry, citizenship, ethnic or national origin, race, color, political or religious affiliation, creed, disability, or age. NESTA practices this principle of equal opportunity by opening its membership to all who are interested and by attempting to increase the participation of women, minorities and handicapped persons in all of its activities. NESTA strongly encourages its members to provide equal access to quality education in the Earth Sciences. The Board urges all members to join with the Association in this endeavor.

Adopted 1989

Amended 2005

NESTA-NAGT Joint Position Statement

PDF Version

Position Statement:
Offering rigorous Earth science courses at the high school level addresses critical needs in both geoscience education and future workforce needs. Members of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) and National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) advise that it is time to establish new, strong collaborations between high schools and post­secondary institutions around dual credit and concurrent enrollment Earth science courses. These courses will attract high performing students to potentially fill the geoscience career pipeline, meet the rigors and spirit of the Next Generation Science Standards, continue to build strong post­secondary education geoscience departments, expand the diversity of the geoscience community, and increase the number of geoscience literate citizens who will be making informed decisions about Earth science issues in the future.


The AGI Workforce Program has predicted a decrease in the number of geoscientists in the next decades while at the same time there is a forecast increase in the number of geoscientist jobs. With relatively few students majoring in the Earth sciences in college, there is a potential shortfall of future geoscientists. By improving the level of high school Earth science education with dual credit or concurrent enrollment courses, we can begin to address that workforce gap. During their high school experiences many top performing secondary school students in the United States are guided toward the more rigorous Advance Placement (AP) courses. Currently there is not an AP Earth Science course. Models need to be employed that address critical educational gaps by expanding the use of dual credit and concurrent enrollment courses to counterbalance. High school students need to be recruited and retained in the Earth sciences as they bridge over into higher education in pursuit of degrees.

Qualified high school students taking dual credit or concurrent enrollment courses can earn both high school and college credit simultaneously. Courses are taught either at a high school by qualified high school teachers (dual credit model) or at two year/four year post-secondary institutions by higher education faculty (concurrent enrollment model). Top performing high school students who seek AP science courses would be attracted to dual credit or concurrent enrollment Earth science courses because it allows them to complete a course in a required high school content area, while directly earning college credit with a possible higher weighted grade point average. College admission officers will recognize on the student’s high school transcripts that the student has completed a college level course, and in addition, the high school student will be able to include a college transcript with his/her college application.

Dual credit courses are modeled after a course at the collaborating post­secondary institution. The standards and academic rigor established for the course at the college. are maintained at the high school through close collaboration between the qualified high school teacher and the college faculty. Dual credit high school courses are typically taught during a full school year, thereby allowing sufficient contact time for the students to master the content taught in a corresponding post­secondary institution semester. The complementary concurrent enrollment model is one in which high school students are enrolled in single semester courses on a higher education campus. The college receives a number of benefits, among which is included a very important recruiting tool: students completing a course will receive a college transcript, giving them an incentive to apply to that college. This can be particularly compelling to students who may not have considered college as an option prior to their dual credit or concurrent enrollment experience.

NAGT and NESTA members probably already know geoscience educators who would be interested in establishing dual credit or concurrent enrollment program. They are usually just a quick e-mail or phone call away. We encourage members to reach out and begin this discussion. 


NESTA and NAGT encourage the following actions:

Secondary Faculty and Administration

  • Identify local post­secondary institutions with Earth & Space Science Departments. Approach them about the possibility of a dual credit or concurrent enrollment collaborations which will have the potential to increase their enrollment, provide visibility for their department, and increase the number of students who may choose to major in the Earth & Space Sciences.
  • Identify a departmental liaison who will be the point of contact for this project. Design a course syllabus that demonstrates that the course meets college standards as well as state high school graduation requirements.
  • Approach appropriate local school district personnel, including the school guidance department. Establish the expectation that Earth science is a rigorous college level course that will challenge students at the high school level and provide them with college credits before entering college.
  • Work with the departmental liaison to create special learning opportunities for the students such as guest speakers, field trips, and special projects, once the course is developed and approved.

Post-Secondary / Higher Education Faculty

  • Identify local secondary institutions and qualified faculty. Approach them about the possibility of establishing a dual credit or concurrent enrollment course promoting Earth science.
  • Invite the local appropriate secondary science and mathematics faculty, guidance staff and administrators to post-secondary events highlighting the Earth sciences and the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education efforts.
  • Be involved in the collaborations by actively initiating these programs and implementations.

Member login

Upcoming Events

Members - Log in for access to the full calendar of upcoming events

No upcoming events available

Earth and Space Science Today

Now you can easily access information on topics that highlight our active Earth. Learn all about the latest earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, severe weather, wildfires, tides and currents, droughts, a calendar of solar and lunar eclipses, and daily streamflow information.