"hands-on, minds-on" approach to learning is what earned Kevin
Leineweber of Lafayette, Ind., the title of AAPG National Earth
Science Teacher of the Year for 2002.
Leineweber, who will be honored at the AAPG Annual
Meeting in Houston this month, teaches earth sciences at McCutcheon
High School in Lafayette. The 32-year-old educator has taught science
for nine years — six at McCutcheon.
The award, including $5,000 funded by the AAPG Foundation,
will be presented Monday, March 11 at the All-Convention Luncheon.
Half the money is for Leineweber's personal use and the remainder
will be used for educational purposes at the school, under Leineweber's
He said other science teachers are compiling lists
of needs and he expects some of the money will be used to purchase
new equipment in his earth science classes.
A major goal in his teaching, Leineweber said, is
to impart "general knowledge about earth science to help students
make informed decisions as citizens."
Leineweber has a rule that he stresses to his students:
"Respect yourself, respect others and respect property.
"I believe in providing students with an atmosphere
where they can feel free to learn without worrying about negative
peer pressure or comments," he said.
That creates the necessary environment for learning
about earth sciences, he added.
"I believe that students must first understand what
are our natural resources and how nature provides these," he said.
"Once they understand this, then we can study how man discovered,
extracted and used these resources."
Offering a 'Good' Experience
Leineweber teaches three levels of classes. Making
science interesting is especially important in the non-advanced
classes, he said.
"I try to show how science is pertinent to their
lives since, for many, it will be the last science class they take,"
he said. "I want their last science experience to be a good one.
"I don't 'give' answers — I tend to pose questions
back to the students in their search for answers," he said.
"It's harder for them, but they appreciate not being
That same observation came from Sandra Shoemaker,
a counselor at McCutcheon High.
"The part that separates him from his other colleagues
is that he makes the students find answers," Shoemaker said. "He
teaches students how to think, not what to think."
Leineweber said he incorporates other scientific
disciplines in his discussions, and uses creative writing, artwork,
computer technology, videos, demonstrations, activities and laboratories.
Leineweber first spends time teaching his students:
- "The vocabulary of natural resources and energy."
- To understand the origin of natural resources, and what resources
are available in different locations.
- Both the historical and present-day use of resources.
- How various minerals, stones, aggregates and fossil fuels are
- To understand the pros and cons of different energy resources.
- To think about energy and natural resources.
"Many of the activities are aimed at showing the
difficulties and economics of extracting and using natural resources.
"We use the theme, 'If it can't be grown, it has
to be mined,' he said.
Some of the activities include:
"Bird Seed Mining" —
Students use Popsicle sticks as mining equipment to find various
beads in a container of bird seed. They must move a great deal of
seed to locate the beads.
And, you ask, how does this help them?
Students learn about ratios in this exercise, and
discuss whether it might be more economical to retrieve easier-to-find,
but less valuable, large beads or search for more valuable, but
rare, small beads.
"Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining"
— Students buy a cookie (land) and paper clips (mining equipment)
to extract chocolate chips (minerals). They are "fined" if they
use their hands or make too big a mess.
They also are told they can eat the cookie if they
can put it back together, leading to a discussion of reclamation.
(They get to eat the cookie in any case.)
"Pizza Box Mining" —
Students use magnetic stud finders to locate metal objects glued
inside a pizza box. The box top has a grid and a map with buildings
and other features.
The students must decide which small area to mine,
and explain their decision.
"How to Power a Town Without Fossil
Fuels" — Students are given a map of Lafayette and challenged
to work on the question in small groups, then present their findings.
Solutions usually include hydroelectric, geothermal, solar and wind
A field trip to a local
sand and gravel pit lets the young learners see real-world application
of some of the subjects they have discussed in class.
Leineweber said one of the most popular segments
of the class is a PowerPoint presentation, including photos of his
experience at a "Mining Engineering for Teachers" course conducted
by Michigan Tech. The course, funded through a National Science
Foundation grant, focuses on copper and iron mining operations in
Michigan. Teachers attend one summer as students and return the
next as mentors.
Getting Students to Care
Leineweber devotes about one month of each class
to discussions of energy and natural resources, he said.
The educator said he has seen positive changes in
attitudes toward earth science in his years as a teacher.
Earth science used to be considered the "other science"
that students were offered, he said. Today, more students are taking
earth science courses and college-bound students are seeing the
employment opportunities and relevance to their lives in the field,
Three of Leineweber's students are pursuing earth
science studies in college, two with plans to teach and one studying
vulcanology. A fourth student is considering teaching or meteorology
after graduating from high school, he said.
Raised in Chicago, Leineweber earned his bachelor's
degree in secondary education in 1991 from Indiana University at
Bloomington. He is pursuing a master's through Mississippi State
University. He and his wife, Amy, have two children.
AAPG's Teacher of the Year program was started in
1996 to recognize teachers who go beyond the textbook to incorporate
applied geology into their lesson plan and "bring students an appreciation
of how one field of science touches their everyday life."
Supporting statements from Leineweber's colleagues
and administrators in his nomination for the honor praise him for
his success as a teacher and for his efforts beyond classroom learning
to help students build self-esteem.
McCutcheon principal Medarda Bauer said this:
"His enthusiasm for this course coupled with the
variety of activities he uses has shown students that science can
be both information and fun … Over the past few years the numbers
of students interested in earth science has increased. It is my
contention that Mr. Leineweber has played a part in that growth."
Asked if he had any advice for other science teachers,
"Remember to be there for your students — keep your
ears open and let the curriculum be second."