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Introduction to the South Carolina Earth Physics Project

Capturing a student's innate curiosity for natural phenomena in the world around them and transforming this enthusiasm into a meaningful learning experience is the greatest challenge of any science teacher. The challenge of the educational system, on the other hand, is to provide its teachers with the resources and training necessary to seize these opportunities within the confines of their curriculum and classroom structures. Earthquakes, by virtue of their awesome power, their unpredictability, and the broad, sometimes tragic, impact they can have on the daily lives of people, have tremendous potential to capture the attention of students of all ages. The hidden power of earthquakes is that this enthusiasm can be used as a platform from which a wealth of fundamental principles of physics and earth sciences can be taught. This is especially true in South Carolina because of its history of and susceptibility to earthquake activity. But to take advantage of this educational opportunity, we must provide our teachers with the necessary technology, resources, and training. The South Carolina Earth Physics Project is the mechanism by which our state can harness the power of earthquakes to educate our students.

The establishment of the South Carolina Earth Physics Project (SCEPP) as a CHE Center of Excellence at USC allows South Carolina to implement and adapt a growing national program at a critical time when our Grade 9-12 science curriculum is being reexamined and revamped. SCEPP involves the installation of digital seismographs in high schools all over the state, thus providing the connection between student's familiar environment and earthquakes that occur throughout the world on a daily basis. These individual high schools will be linked, in near real time, via the Internet to a central resource center at USC so that students and teachers from any high school in the state can access SCEPP data and share experiences with other participants. SCEPP is also developing an integrated curriculum from which teachers can utilize data from the SCEPP network and provide pre-service and in-service teachers throughout the state with the training and support necessary to make optimum use of this unique educational resource.

One of the benefits of integrating seismology and real-time seismic observations into the high school science curriculum is that it provides a foundation from which teachers can address basic principles of both physics and earth sciences using a common "horizontally-integrated" resource. Thus, this project has the potential of having a profound impact on the way natural science concepts are taught in South Carolina. While the SCEPP Center of Excellence will focus on the integration of SCEPP resources and activities into the Grades 9-12 science curriculum, the potential impact of this project on science education in South Carolina is far broader. Through use of the Internet, SCEPP will provide easily accessible seismic data and educational resources that could be utilized throughout K-16 education in the state. Thus, SCEPP has great potential as a "vertically-integrated" educational resource for the State of South Carolina.