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Finding connections between current events and earth sciences

Annia Fayon
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University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
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Summary

Class creates a list of all current events, including topics from their countries of origin. The next task is to find the connections between the events and categorize events based on the connections. Finally, as a group, we discuss how earth science fits in the picture. This discussion is the basis for group presentations on current event topics of the students' choice.

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Context

Audience

This activity is best suited for introductory physical geology and/or environmental geology courses. It is designed to help students make connections where initially they may not see the links. Designed for a geophysics course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must understand the concept of cycles and the connectivity of processes within the rock cycle and the broader earth system cycle.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is being developed as a culminating project of sorts, and is generally scheduled for the last 3 to 5 weeks of the term. During this part of my introductory geology course, we discuss environmental geology, including resources.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Content/concept goal: Develop an understanding of human impact on the environment. This involves application of their knowledge cycles: the water cycle, carbon cycle, and the earth system cycle.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Thinking skills developed for this activity include synthesis of ideas and critical evaluation of cultural and political situations in the context of earth science.

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals include group work, research involving the internet, library, and the general media sources. Student groups are required to give a 20 minute presentation to the class.

Description of the activity/assignment

Preparation for this activity is done during the class discussion on current events. Prior to this class, students are required to look through the newspapers and browse the internet for a list of events. During the class, student groups share their list with the class. Each group then categorizes the larger list. This discussion is extremely useful for shedding light on the connectivity and complexity of human relationships from the individual to nations. Students are then asked to propose why these current events are occurring. For example, immigrant students in my course discuss scarcity of resources leading to conflict and civil war in their home countries. Other students will bring the idea of global economy and the effects of globalization on their cultures. The discussions that emerge from this activity are significant for all students involved. In addition to increased student awareness, this activity underscores the importance of integrated learning. Uses geophysics to solve problems in other fields

Determining whether students have met the goals

During the group presentations, I evaluate the level to which students bring the content of physical geology into their discussions. To evaluate whether or not students have developed a deeper understanding of the relationship between society and the environment, on the last exam, I ask students to describe one concept they learned in the course and how their understanding of that concept has changed how they view the world. For students that participated in the group projects, the answers tend to reveal positive changes in their perception of earth science. Students also begin to see the necessity for scientific literacy.

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