Teach the Earth > Course Design > Course Goals/Syllabus Database > Natural Disasters

Natural Disasters

Alan Paul Price

University of Wisconsin - Washington County
Two Year College


A study of various environmental hazards, their causes, impacts on humans, and mitigation.

Course URL:
Resource Type: Course Information:Goals/Syllabi
Special Interest: Hazards
Theme: Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Hazards
Course Size:


Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites designed to fulfill a general education requirement. It does not serve as a pre-requisite for any other course. Most students are non-majors and, typically, non-science/non-math majors. The course could be done with a lab. Any person desiring to be major would have to take physical geology.

Course Goals:

1.Students are able to describe and explain the dynamics of basic earth processes that contribute to specific natural disasters.

2. Students are able to evaluate human actions that contribute to natural disasters and predict how these actions will interact with earth processes.

3. Students are able to analyze how existing or proposed policy decisions may either contribute to or mitigate a specific natural disaster.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

I concentrate on six specific disasters and the information necessary to understand those events. Some processes do overlap. They answers question outside, inside of class an on exams on each of the goals and they do it in every class period. They also do a number of activities where they synthesize the information they get from the text and lecture in groups.

Skills Goals

1. Students are able to write accurate, succinct and organized explanations of how human actions and earth processes contribute to natural disasters.

2. Students are able to visualize and analyze structures relevant to natural disasters.

3. Students are able to work in groups to identify, analyze and critique the interaction between human actions and earth processes.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

They are constantly writing short written responses to questions starting with the reading they do out class. We go over them in class and they get similar written questions on exams. They analyze images and diagrams outside of class and in class and they see them again on the exam. Finally, they do much of their work in class in groups - answering questions, analyzing policy, concepts sketches and other activities as well.

Attitudinal Goals

I have not developed specific attitudinal goals but (1) I want students to get in the habit of asking and investigating questions, (2) I want students to learn how to learn, and (3) I want students to realize that their actions hace consequences.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

I spend a lot of time asking questions. I push the students to get in the habit of asking questions as well. I don't want them to be passive receptors of learned wisdom. In terms of learning, I also spend time explaining how and why I teach the way I do and how best to deal with my class. A fair amount of my class design is structured to reward them for developing good habits.


I have daily warm-up questions on material to be covered. I have daily quizzes at the beginning of class designed to cover material from the very last class so that they will review their note. I have group activities where they turn in products and receive a group grade so that they are encourage to participate and do well at the activity. And, last, on the exams, I try to design all my questions to flow from and resemble every activity and question that they had to address in class.

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