Teaching about the Earth is fun for the Haverford School's Barbara Cheyney, comparing the weight of iron (left) and pumice. She is working on an Earth science curriculum for use nationwide.


Article from Philadelphia Inquirer - 6/25/99







Great adventure on Earth in classroom

A Haverford School science teacher is one of those helping to make happen for students.

By Gloria A. Hoffner


HAVERFORD-When it comes to taking unusual summer vacations, few people can top Barbara Cheyney, geologist and science teacher.

She has scaled inactive volcanoes, studied sea-floor eruptions, and straddled the tectonic plates of North America and the Pacific. Each was a learning experience that Cheyney hopes will serve her well when she begins her work next week as a member of the U.S. Geologic Survey's curriculum development team.

"I've always loved learning about the Earth and everything in it," Cheyney said. "I believe it's real important for children to know how the planet works."

Cheyney, 52, of Ardmore, is one of six teachers in the United States who were selected to design classroom activities for the Geologic Survey map and book project called "The Dynamic Planet Teaching Companion." Once completed, she said, the curriculum packet for kindergarten through 12th grade will be offered free to anyone in the United States.

"Most children like to study about the Earth because every day's lesson can be different," Cheyney said. "Earth science is about weather, topography, rocks, the planets and even what happened to the dinosaurs."

Cheyney is a seventh grade teacher at the Haverford School. Her involvement in the curriculum packet began when she attended the 1997 International Teachers of Earth Sciences Conference in Hawaii.

While most vacationers were enjoying the beaches, she said, she and other science teachers and geologists were discussing topics ranging from the movement of the Earth's 11 tectonic plates to ice depths at the North and South Poles.

There were meetings on the flow of magma in the Atlantic Ocean as well as discussions of global earthquake and volcano patterns.

Each participant received a copy of The Dynamic Planet map and book.

At the Haverford School, Cheyney used the map and book to explain to her students how mountain ranges form and global sea levels change.

Students could see at a glance where meteors stuck the Earth and how the Ring of Fire-a pattern of volcanic activity circling the Pacific - got its name, she said.

She developed classroom materials students could utilize. An example of an earth science activity, she said, was to make puzzle pieces representing each of the tectonic plates.

It was up to her students to put the planet together.

"They got the large ones [in place] right away, but the smaller ones gave them some trouble," Cheyney said. "It was a good way to show them how complicated the Earth is."

Last year, she was selected as one of 24 teachers invited to attend a Geologic Survey educators conference in Menlo Park', Calif.

At that conference, she said, work began on the K-12 curriculum packet that Cheyney and five colleagues plan to complete this summer.

"I feel it's very important that students learn to care for and about the Earth," Cheyney said. "Right now, it's the only planet we can live on."