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Environmental Geology of the Area where you Live

Mike Phillips
Illinois Valley Community College
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This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.

This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Apr 30, 2008


Students research and report on the environmental geology (resources and hazards) of the area around their home. The project helps develop students' abilities to apply what they have learned.

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The course is an introductory-level course in environmental geology. The focus of the course is applying geologic concepts to human interactions with the earth and its processes.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The students must be able to: read maps; complete research using the library, internet, and personal interviews; keep track of resources utilized. Before beginning the concluding portion of the project, students must be able to understand and apply basic geologic concepts in the analysis of hazards (natural & human-induced) and resources. The project runs the entire semester, so some of these skills are acquired and develop as the course progresses and must be mastered before the final product is completed.

How the activity is situated in the course

The project is a capstone project. Data is collected and analyzed over the course of the semester and much of the data collection is incorporated as portions of lab assignments and classroom discussion. The final project is prepared at the conclusion of the semester and is submitted in written form and presented in summary at the conclusion of the course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Student will be able to describe the location and physical characteristics of a study area
Student will be able to read topographic and geologic maps
Student will be able to assess the relative risk posed by natural and human-induced hazards (slopes, radon gas, flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, subsidence, hazardous substances, mining)
Student will be able to assess the presence and utility of local resources (soil, water, mineral, energy)
Student will be able to analyze and develop a short land use plan for a small area.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will be able to find and analyze readily available data, evaluate its impact on a small community, and develop recommendations for appropriate future use.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students will be able to collect information from a variety of sources (including the internet, library, and local authorities and residents). Students will be able to prepare a fully referenced paper. Students will be able to use visual aids in a written document and oral presentation to clearly illustrate their ideas. Students will be able to prepare and present a short oral synopsis.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students collect data for this term project starting with the first lab exercise and continuing throughout the semester. As each unit is covered in the text, class, and lab, students are directed to collect data relevant to their term project. For example: Topographic maps are covered at the start of the semester and students must locate their home; describe its location using the Public Land Survey, Universal Transverse Mercator, and Longitude-Latitude Systems; and describe the local topography. When natural hazards (flooding, slopes, earthquakes, volcanoes, and radon gas) are covered, students must use web resources (some of which are provided by the instructor at http://www2.ivcc.edu/phillips/geology/environmental_research.htm), local resources (such as the local fire chief, library, mayor, relatives, and neighbors), and personal observation to identify hazards and assess the risk they pose; these hazards are submitted as part of a lab assignment. The information collected is analyzed using the principles discussed in class and feedback is provided on pieces that are submitted throughout the semester. At the conclusion of the semester, students organize the collected information, add illustrations (maps and photos), analyze and evaluate the materials collected, and conclude the report with a discussion of how the area should be developed in the future based on the principles learned in the class.

The activity shows the students the immediate relevance of the material as it is covered, shows the students the types of information publicly available, and helps them develop critical analysis skills. The activity introducers students to basic geologic knowledge and shows them how to make use of it.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I have a grading rubric (available at: http://www2.ivcc.edu/phillips/courses/gel1007/term_project/proj_grade.htm). On the grade sheet, there is space available to note specifically where reports are strong and where they are lacking.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Outline for doing environmental research
Project index for this environmental geology course

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