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Central Washington University

CWU Professor First in Washington to Receive AAAS Science Prize

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Anne Egger, professor of geological sciences and science education at Central Washington University is the first Washington scientist to receive the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction (IBI). Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. Egger’s essay, “Engaging Students in Earthquakes via Real-Time Data and Decisions,” will be published in the June 29 issue.

The prize was established to encourage innovation and excellence in education by recognizing outstanding, inquiry-based science and design-based engineering education modules.

"I saw the call for entries and submitted," Egger said, "People often have a hard time imagining how students can be involved in true inquiry in the Earth sciences, and I wanted to make the case that you absolutely can, and that it looks different than inquiry in biology or chemistry."

Over several years, Egger developed an exercise about earthquakes for college students in her introductory class called “Dynamic Earth.” In Egger's module, "Seismicity and Relative Risk," students engage in inquiry through exploring real-time earthquake data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website to learn not only about earthquakes but to connect them to their lives.

"The question was, where would they want to live, after researching and assessing earthquake hazard in multiple locations," said Egger. "The module allowed them to learn basic Earth science concepts, such as plate tectonics, while applying them to a personal situation. Plus, it added an element of spontaneity. With real-time earthquake data, students don't know what will be on the map from day to day."

Using the USGS website, students could study the frequency of earthquakes in several areas, as well as the types of earthquakes and their magnitude. They also researched levels of earthquake preparedness, such as modifying buildings, highways and other structures to withstand sizable shocks.

The module evolved over several years and Egger has made it easy to modify and use, allowing educators to tailor the course to a specific situation or place. And it's economical—the USGS site is a "high quality, free resource," she pointed out.

“I’m thrilled to have been selected for the prize,” said Egger, “and I’m hopeful that this module will help other scientists and educators see that there are many ways to engage students in scientific inquiry, even at the introductory level and even in Earth science.”

Egger received her doctorate in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University. In 2010, she received the School of Earth Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award and has been a senior editor of Visionlearning since 2001.

Egger is also coordinator for CWU's participation in a $10 million, 12-institution National Science Foundation grant, "Interdisciplinary Teaching of Geoscience for a Sustainable Future." The CWU Department of Geological Sciences is one of the top 100 departments nationwide for research grant funding in Earth Sciences from the National Science Foundation. The department also houses the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array, or PANGA, a network of GPS receivers throughout the Northwest that monitors natural hazards, such as earthquakes.

The AAAS is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. Founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals.

 

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1518, valeriec@cwu.edu