In the past several decades, the scientific community's collective understanding of Earth's history and the processes that shape this dynamic planet has grown exponentially. Yet communicating the current understanding of Earth systems to the community outside of science (educators and students, policy makers, and the general public) has lagged.
In 1995, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) led the effort to establish National Science Education Standards (http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/nses/),with the goal of helping all students achieve scientific literacy. Earth and space sciences are one of the eight categories of content standards. Clearly the establishment of science education standards alone will not foster a scientifically literate society, as indicated in the NAS report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11463.html). This report, released last fall, warns that without strong steps to improve federal support for science and technology research, and science and technology education, the quality of life in the United States is threatened as the country loses its competitive edge.