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A week ago, in my journalism seminar we did a student-produced case study on loss of biodiversity: "The Sixth Extinction." Last week, the lunchtime seminar in my research division at Lamont was a report from the annual conference from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. The newspaper this week is full of the United National Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
I feel as though the scientific community is pulling itself apart, with biologists drawn to to biodiversity loss, geologists drawn to peak oil, chemists and physicists drawn to climate change. Each faction is trying to draw attention of politicians, the public, and media to their favorite impending disaster. More
I've been hiking every Sunday this past fall with a group of geology majors–the Sunday Hiking Club. We are doing a service-learning project to create trailside posters and websites that explain the natural history of popular trails in the mountains surrounding our town. While on our hikes, all of the students are taking digital photographs of their experiences on the trail, and the archives of these images will serve as the raw materials for the story lines we'll present to the public. At the simplest level, our trailside posters will help direct the attention of interested hikers to the wonders they'll encounter along the trail. The premise is that the hike may be a bit more enjoyable and meaningful for recreational hikers if they know what special features to look for along the way. For the hiking public, their original motivation for going on the hike may range from exercise to aesthetics, but we think we can slip in a little science education along the way. The accompanying websites will be a bit more detailed, with in-depth information for further personal investigation with resources such as geologic maps, articles that are accessible for reading by the public, archives of annotated images, and links to related instructional sites. In observing Nature through my own lens, and also observing my students as they themselves look at the world with focused attention through their cameras, I came to realize vaguely at first, and then with increased clarity, the transformative power of photography as an instructional activity. More
There appears to be an expectation (or perception) that undergraduate faculty should be designing their own teaching activities to receive academic credit for their instructional efforts. This has resulted in the "not invented here" syndrome, which places little value on implementation of existing instructional activities in favor of development of new instructional activities. This is a rather strange value system in that a) few undergraduate faculty have formal training in curriculum design, aspects of human cognition related to learning, and assessment, b) undergraduate faculty are typically pressed for time as they attempt to meet their instructional, research and service obligations, and c) we all teach "out of field", and it is very difficult to assemble the relevant Science and accompanying instructional resources from diverse, credentialed sources. "Reinventing the wheel" for the sake of local branding of instructional products is both an inefficient and ineffective use of precious faculty time.More