The Earth Science Literacy Initiative

The Earth Science Literacy Initiative The Earth Science Literacy Principles, presented as a published brochure and available on line at, contains 9 "big ideas" and 75supporting Concepts that outline the essential understandings that all citizens should know about Earth science. Its creating was led by members of the IRIS E&O program.
In 2009, the Earth Science Literacy Initiative (ESLI), which was led by Michael Wysession (Chair, IRIS E&O Committee) and John Taber (Manager, IRIS E&O Program), created a document entitled the Earth Science Literacy Principles (ESLPs) that contains a framework of the essential information that all citizens should know about Earth Science. The program was run by an outstanding Organizing Committee that also included David A. Budd (University of Colorado), Karen Campbell (University of Minnesota), Martha Conklin (UC Merced), Ellen Kappel (Geo Prose), Nicole LaDue (Michigan State), Gary Lewis (GSA), Robert Raynolds (Denver Museum of Science and Nature), Robert W. Ridky (USGS), Robert M. Ross (Paleontological Research Institute), Barbara Tewksbury (Hamilton College), and Peter Tuddenham (College of Exploration).
</p><p>Understanding Earth science concepts is critical for humanity to successfully respond to these challenges and thrive in the decades to come. The twenty-first century will be defined by challenges such as understanding and preparing for climate change and ensuring the availability of resources such as water and energy, issues that are deeply rooted in the Earth sciences. To address this need, ESLI was formed in 2008 with the task to create a succinct document outlining what all citizens should know about Earth science. This document followed vigorous discussions at several workshops and multiple reviews. The resulting (ESLPs) consisted of 9 “Big Ideas” and 75 “Supporting Concepts” that highlighted the fundamental understandings of Earth science. Combined with similar efforts from the Ocean, Atmosphere, and Climate communities, it forms a foundation of essential information in the geosciences that has had a tremendous impact in many ways.
</p><p>The ESLPs have already had broad-reaching applications in both public and private arenas. It is helping to guide future decisions involving governmental legislation and educational science standards. For example, the ESLPs were used to guide the formation of a new K–8 national science program developed in 2009 by Pearson. The ESLPs were also the basis for the Earth science part of the “Conceptual Framework for Science Education Standards” by the National Research Council, which will be used as the foundation for future national science education standards within the US. For more information, see
</p><p>Wysession, M., et al., The Earth Science Literacy Principles, NSF, 2009.
</p><p>Acknowledgements: Funding was provided by NSF: EAR-0832415 (Wysession) and NSF: EAR-0832418 (Taber).</p>


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