InTeGrate Modules and Courses >A Growing Concern: Sustaining Soil Resources through Local Decision Making
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Oct 16, 2014

Summary

Continued agricultural productivity and the ability to feed the earth's growing population hinges on understanding how to manage soil resources. This module addresses this need by providing students the opportunity to examine the differences between intensively managed agricultural landscapes (e.g. grazelands, conventional tillage) and "natural" landscapes (forested or prairie). Using learning-centered strategies, students will develop a working knowledge of soil physical properties and geospatial data at both local and global scales. The module culminates with a project centered on making sustainable soil management decisions under global climate change.

Strengths of the Module

This module addresses soil sustainability in the context of land management and climate change. Students are engaged through an active learning environment (e.g. physical modeling, think-pair-share, and jigsaw exercises), encouraging critical thinking and reflection. The entire process requires that students develop interdisciplinary thinking skills to synthesize how soil erosion relates to land management decision-making.

Students investigate the basic interactions between Earth's spheres, a key component of which is the positive feedback between agricultural practices and the sustainability of soil as a vital resource. They apply systems thinking as they consider how predicted changes in climate will impact soil sustainability in their local area.

Students challenge their conceptual models about soil erosion and sustainability through the use of real-world geoscientific data, both data they generate and data gathered from existing USGS and USDA databases. In the process, they develop data collection and analysis skills and the ability to access existing data using technology tools.

Students gain an understanding of the nature and methods of geoscience through building observational skills, using charts to characterize soil samples, and working with geospatial data to understand how humans alter geologic rates of change. Geoscientific habits of mind will grow through working with authentic data and translating scaffolded knowledge into decision-making as students take on the role of agricultural "experts."

A great fit for courses in:

  • Intro Geology
  • Intro Environmental Science
  • Intro Soil Science
  • Interdisciplinary Courses
  • Sustainability Courses

This module is appropriate for introductory-level undergraduate science courses such as environmental science, geology, agriculture, and soil science. It could also be used to introduce the scientific concepts relevant to social science (i.e. policy-making, economics). The module is designed to stand alone and can be adapted to any class size and format (large- or small-enrollment classes and interdisciplinary courses). This six-unit module utilizes active learning strategies by incorporating pre-work, in-class activities, and follow-up homework. Units 1 through 5 are designed to stand alone. If completed sequentially, they culminate in a summative fact sheet that builds from all units (Unit 6). The module could be adapted to upper-level courses in those fields.

Supported NSF Earth Science Literacy Principles:

  • Big Idea 1: Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
  • Big Idea 3: Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life.
  • Big Idea 6: Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.
  • Big Idea 7: Humans depend on Earth for resources.

Supported NOAA Essential Principles of Climate Science:

7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

Addressed grand challenges in earth and environmental science:

  • Identifying feedback between natural and perturbed systems
  • Quantifying consequences, impacts, and effects

Addressed grand challenges in earth system science for global sustainability:

  • Develop, enhance, and integrate observation systems to manage global and regional environmental change
  • Determine how to anticipate, avoid, and manage disruptive global environmental change.
  • Determine institutional, economic, and behavioral changes to enable effective steps toward global sustainability.
  • Encourage innovation (and mechanisms for evaluation) in technological, policy, and social responses to achieve global sustainability.


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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »