EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The Earth Is Out There: Attitudes Of Irish Secondary Students Towards Earth Science

Emer Emily Neenan and Joseph Roche
Emer Emily Neenan and Joseph Roche
  • School of Education, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (

The world is facing a future where geoscience issues with significant social impact are increasingly central, including climate change, clean water, energy and resource management (e.g. mining, fracking), and natural disasters. The disposition of the next generation of citizens, as future voters and as future scientists, is vital if the world is to meet the challenges of rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and rising incidences of natural disasters. This paper arises from ongoing educational research undertaken in Irish secondary schools, examining student engagement with and understanding of geoscientific topics. Earth Science is included in the new Science syllabus in Ireland for 12 - 15 year old students (lower secondary level), but so far, no one has studied Irish students’ attitudes towards Earth Science. This is a mixed-methods study involving a survey of secondary schools in Ireland, including urban and rural, and mixed- and single-gender schools. Students representative in age and demographics of the participants are included as consultant voices at multiple stages in the study. Preliminary results from this study will be discussed in detail, focusing on student attitudes towards Earth Science as global and Irish citizens; how they conceptualise human interdependence with and on the planet; and how they consider themselves in different ways connected to or independent from the Earth, the study of Earth Science, and students or children their age elsewhere on the planet facing similar challenges in the era of climate change. 

How to cite: Neenan, E. E. and Roche, J.: The Earth Is Out There: Attitudes Of Irish Secondary Students Towards Earth Science, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-11336,, 2020


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  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-11336, Jen Roberts, 07 May 2020

    Hi Emer,

    Thanks for joining the live chat earlier in the week :-) 

    Your display raises some important questions that many social researchers are musing on currently. I'm glad for the opportunity to muse together.

    I wanted to follow up on sampling in C19 times. Disadvantaged people are already harder to reach for a lot of social research methods. This may be exacerbated in C-19 with e.g. access to internet, enhanced caring load, exhascerbated mental wellbeing challenges.
    What might be ways around this? How might barriers be reduced?
    I’m curious to hear your thoughts. 


    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Emer Emily Neenan, 11 May 2020

      Hi Jen!

      I absolutely agree, and this is all very new. There are opportunities here to reach some people who may find in-person things more challenging and online things less challenging (for example, people with mobility/fatigue disabilities, people who work from home to supervise children). But obviously there are also many people who will struggle to move online (people who don't have reliable WiFi/hardware, people who are grappling with additional caring responsibilities, etc). 

      I think the main thing we can do to begin with is be aware and receptive. Ask what people's challenges are, give them space and opportunity to tell us, be as flexible as possible. Give people more time to respond, extend deadlines and be generous. Be open, if possible ourselves, to doing things different / more slowly / at different times / through different mediums. Be aware of the expenses to participants that are less visible but still possibly barriers or difficulties to them, and try to offset or cover those expenses where possible.

      All of this will slow research down, but maybe that's a good thing, as we discussed in the chat - taking time to be more reflective and kind can be a bonus to both our science and ourselves. 

      I'm really glad we have this space to discuss these things, they're important! And I hope we can take some of these lessons back with us to our "new normal" when things improve.

      Best wishes and stay safe,

      Emer Emily Neenan
      Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholar
      School of Education
      Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
      +353 87 660 1226
  • CC2: Comment on EGU2020-11336, John Bruun, 08 May 2020


    Thanks for sharing your epistolary approach to narrating and unfolding what you find in your research:  its great and think this approach will reach many people – scientist’s and us all more widely.  

    It links, I think, very much to personal identity, and by placing the reader in the position of being active in the narrative then we can more naturally choose to participate in the story and the geoscience work.

    It has some similarities in concept to writing with the identity of an Analytical Collective of thought with an awareness of reflexivity.

    This sounds really useful and I’d very much like to hear what you establish going forwards and to continue the conversation. I’m at

    Best John

    • AC2: Reply to CC2, Emer Emily Neenan, 13 May 2020

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Exactly, as I was saying in the chat, the strength of the epistolary is to bring the reader along close to the "action" as the narrative unfolds. I hope my thesis will give its readers a sense of the research process and experience, as well as the actual methods and results. 

      It's also inevitably a more self-reflective process for me, writing it, which ties in to everything we were discussing in the session about having a reflective process as researchers and taking the time and space to do that.

      Do keep in touch - my contact details are below. I will be sharing my thesis via my university's open access system when it's finished!

      Best wishes and stay safe,

      Emer Emily Neenan

      Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar
      School of Education
      Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
      +353 87 660 1226