Research that bears on these questions is found in fields as disparate as philosophy, psychology, physics education and social science. With funding from the "Synthesis" track of NSF's Research on Education program, we are conducting a year-long effort to gather and distill existing knowledge, and articulate unanswered questions, about how human beings think and learn about our planet. Four central themes include: (a) geological time and related temporal concepts, (b) complex systems of the Earth and environment, (c) spatial thinking in geosciences and (d) field-base learning. Our work has been accomplished through a scoping meeting, weekly virtual Journal Club sessions, and a summer writing retreat, all involving mixtures of geoscientists and cognitive scientists. Questions, readings from the Journal Club, collections of relevant resources from science education and cognitive science research, and updates on the state of the synthesis are online at http://serc.carleton.edu/research_on_learning/synthesis/. Our presentation will highlight the results of the synthesis, and we invite feedback from colleagues.
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