SALT LAKE CITY -- Western Governors University has been selected by IGES (Institute for Global Environmental Strategies) as a partner institution in the Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA), an innovative professional development program for pre-service and in-service middle and high school teachers. Western Governors University will join other colleges, universities, and science research and education organizations spread among 22 states and the District of Columbia. "I believe the cohort of partners we have selected are an excellent mix that will bring varied and innovative approaches to implementing the ESSEA courses," said Theresa Schwerin, IGES's associate director of education. "I'm thrilled with the selections that were made," said Jill Karsten, program director for diversity and education in NSF's Geosciences Directorate. "It is a diverse set, both geographically and institutionally, and I am excited about the impact ESSEA will be having." ESSEA is funded through a cooperative agreement awarded to IGES by the National Science Foundation under its Geoscience Teacher Training (GEO-Teach) program, which supports projects designed to improve the quality of geoscience education, primarily at the middle and high school levels. GEO-Teach projects provide pre-service teacher training, in-service professional development, and access to high-quality curricular materials. As an ESSEA partner, WGU will receive funding and training to offer a series of online Earth system science courses geared toward teachers of specific grade levels and aligned to national education standards. Working in collaborative groups, teachers who enroll in ESSEA courses will learn to teach Earth system science using inquiry-based classroom methods. "Western Governors University is excited to be a part of this NSF-funded initiative and we are looking forward to working with IGES to make their Earth system science courses available to our undergraduate and graduate students in secondary-level science degree programs," said Dr. Philip Schmidt, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Teachers College at Western Governors University. IGES will assist partner institutions by helping them create a sustainable infrastructure for delivering the courses, and by providing evaluation tools to ensure that, upon course completion, teachers have a strong understanding of Earth system science and how to effectively teach the subject. In addition, IGES will inform ESSA participants about the latest Earth system science research and teaching practices through presentations at conferences, Web seminars, teleconferences, and e-mail updates. The NSF-funded program will build and expand on the original ESSEA program funded by NASA and administered by IGES from 2000 to 2005. IGES is currently updating the existing courses with additional online tools, modules, and materials. Located in Arlington, Virginia, IGES was established in 1994 and is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization supported by public and private entities. IGES is a trusted leader in Earth and space science education, communication and outreach, and in fostering national and international cooperation in observing the Earth. For more information, contact Dr. Phil Schmidt at 1-845-255-4656 or WGU Project Director Sean Spears at 1-866-895-9660 ext.1877 or visit http://essea.strategies.org.