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Classroom Activities for Teaching Public Policy in the Earth Sciences

This collection of teaching materials allows for the sharing of ideas and activities within the community of geoscience teachers. Do you have a favorite teaching activity you'd like to share? Please help us expand this collection by contributing your own teaching materials.

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An Experiential Pedagogy for Sustainability Ethics: The Externalities Game part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Games:Examples
The Externalities Game is a non-cooperative game that teaches students about the concept of environmental externalities and allows them to directly experience the moral dimensions of collective action problems. It ...

Financial Incentives of Open Access Resource Overuse part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities
In this activiy when property rights are absent participants have financial incentive to take what they can get immediatly as opposed to waiting until the resource is more valuable. Adding strong property rights provides the proper finanacial incentives for students to wait to extract the resource when it is most valuable.

Exploring Easter Island Economics with Excel part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities

Sustainable Urban Adventure part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities
In this field based activity students explore their new home in an effort to get acquainted with the community beyond the campus and to experience accessible recreation on a nationally recognized hiking trail. During the nature-based outdoor recreation experience, students explore a variety of natural and cultural history topics.

Action to Enhance Sustainability part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities
This assignment is a 10-hour, out-of-class project where each student designs and carries out an action plan to enhance sustainability. Students select from a large suite of alternative actions, most of which can be quantified for reductions in CO2 and energy consumption, as well as in dollar savings.

Environmentally Sustainable Mining part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities
A field trip that illustrates a contrast between environmentally sustainable mining activity and a case of a lack of environmental planning in mining operation and closure.

Offshore wind or offshore oil? part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities
An introductory environmental science project tasking students with comparing offshore oil and wind power development.

Exploring sustainability through water cycle connections part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities
During this module students use multiple experiences (reading, video, the outdoors, a survey of their water footprints, writing, and lots of discussion) to examine how life today, in comparison to pre-industrial times, makes our connections to water virtually invisible. Students use the class's water footprint results to find out how agricultural and industrial water uses link us to people distant in both place and time. They weigh the consequences of these invisible connections in creating the lost sense of dependence and responsibility that typifies unsustainability. Students study the variability of water footprints within our class to help identify more sustainable personal choices. They consider the activity of a local watershed association to educate and involve people in improving the quality of local streams as a model of how community action can accomplish what individuals cannot.

Students' Evaluation of Competing Alternative Energy Options for a Sustainability Assessment part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities
A group exercise in trying to understand the many attributes that contribute to an overall assessment of sustainability for alternative energy projects.

A mock legislative debate to enhance and integrate student understanding of climate change science, policy, economics and ethics part of Integrate:Workshops:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Activities
This activity utilizes publicly available, proposed national legislation to provide a platform for student inquiry into the intersection of climate science, environmental economics and sustainable public policy.