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About Earth Science by Design

visit the AGI website visit the NSF website visit TERC's website

Earth Science by Design is a professional development program to enhance the capacity of middle and high school teachers of Earth science to:

  • Teach for deeper, enduring understanding
  • Teach to the big ideas in Earth and Space Science
  • Use visualizations and satellite imagery to promote student understanding

Earth Science by Design (ESBD) is based on the "Understanding by Design" approach developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. The year-long program of professional development for teachers begins with a two-week Summer Institute, during which teachers learn the principles of "backward design" and create an Earth science unit they will teach. It continues during the school year with staff mentoring and a Fall Conference where teachers fine-tune their units. During the school year teachers teach their units to their students and conduct peer-to-peer classroom visits with teacher partners. They keep an implementation journal and prepare a report on their experiences which they share with staff and colleagues at a Spring Conference. Detailed information, including detailed activities for the Summer Institute and conferences are provided for staff developers in the Earth Science by Design Handbook for Professional Developers.

Click here to download the Handbook Introduction (1.0 MB)

Click here to download the entire Handbook (8.5 MB)

ESBD provides web-based services to registered staff developers which help them deliver ESBD to their teachers. If you wish to register and receive program support, contact: Carla McAuliffe at TERC.


Earth Science by Design was developed by TERC and the American Geological Institute with funding from the National Science Foundation (ESI-0138644).


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