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What topics do you emphasize in your own teaching about geologic hazards? In selecting these topics, what are your learning goals (e.g. content mastery, skill development, awareness of or connections with Earth processes…)? Do some topics present special opportunities or barriers to understanding?


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Hi Folks, welcome to the GeoHazards webinar. I teach Environmental Geology for non-majors with an enrollment of about 60 students. Half of this class is focused on hazards and the other half is focused on Earth resources. The main hazards I cover are: earthquakes, volcanic hazards (Mt. St. Helens, being a U Washington alum), floods, mass wasting, shore processes, and all manners of anthropogenic hazards (oil spills, dam failures, ....). Because this is a course for non-majors, my main learning goal of the course is to make the students be aware of their connections with Earth--what Earth has done to humanity, and what humanity has done in turn to Earth. I always try to put a human face on these hazards--real people get hurt and killed, and we are all in this together. I think the major barrier to teaching about these topics is the relatively short human memory compared with the immensity of geologic time. So, I spend quite a bit of time trying to put hazard events into perspective with respect to the frequency, magnitude, and human impacts of these vents. I also try to make the point that the "Save the Earth" mantra is off target: the Earth will do just fine over time. Rather, we need to think about saving humanity (from our own devices), and to learn how to live responsibly and sustainably on this planet.


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This post was edited by Avery Swearer on Aug, 2016
I teach two sections of Natural Hazards of the Pacific Northwest for a total of 80 - 85 students each fall semester. This is a 100-level Gen Ed science course, so most students are not science majors. As this course title implies, there is a strong regional flavor with Cascadia earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes taking center stage. A major goal is for students to learn the basic physical processes that produce geologic hazards so they know how to avoid the most hazardous locations and what measures can mitigate hazards. "Don't be scared, be prepared." is a theme we visit many times. In addition to teaching natural hazards at the college level, I am heavily involved in K-12 Earth Science teacher professional development as a collaborator on Teachers on the Leading Edge - https://sites.up.edu/totle/ - I also work with IRIS Education and Public Outreach most notably as one of the developers of Recent Earthquakes Teachable Moments http://www.iris.edu/hq/retm .


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This will be my first time teaching a Natural Hazards class, so I am just now developing answers to this question. I will be emphasizing earthquakes, volcanic hazards, tsunamis, mass movements, floods, weather-related hazards like tornadoes and hurricanes, and climate-change related hazards in the class. My major goals are for students to understand the quantitative reasoning behind living with and managing the risks associated with living on a dynamic planet (this is a heavily quantitative class), and being able to apply those skills to examination of historical and current events. I hope this webinar will help me prepare for opportunities or barriers to learning, which I don't have a good feel for on this topic yet. I am likewise still developing classroom activities and ways to incorporate policy into my lessons, so I hope the webinar will give me some great new ideas.


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Like Bob Butler, I strongly emphasize the region at hand when teaching about anything -- particularly hazards. I have also worked increasingly to integrate empowering action steps for a safer self/society. I just started teaching a senior seminar for honors students on "Global Issues: Case Studies in Science" and am theming it around a better understanding of how we end up "building" our own disasters through decisions we make as a society. The case study topics will be earthquake hazards and climate change as experienced in the Pacific NW (where we are) and the Nepalese Himalaya (for a developing country comparison). I have also worked with Bob on the Teaches on the Leading Edge Project (see post #3 above) which we hope will continue with a special emphasis on coastal educators and tsunami hazards.


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I try to link my teaching of geologic hazards to recent events or regions where hazards are common. Connecting the content of the course to current events seems to make the course much more relevant and has the added benefit of providing real data for students to work with (e.g. seismograms, slip estimates) where they can see scientific controversy in action. My learning objectives involve an ability to identify cause and effect, recognize patterns in multiple datasets and predict what types of hazards may exist in different settings. One of the struggles can be finding real-time (or recent) data available for use in the classroom, but there seems to be a recent surge in available resources, which I really (really!!) appreciate (i.e. the RETM data is excellent, and well-organized, too!).


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I teach undergraduate (primarily) non majors physical geology section in online or hybrid (blended) formats for a community college and a 4-year public university. I also teach upper division- / graduate-level course in environmental geology that includes aspects of geohazards. In any course I teach, I think that the "teachable" moments afforded by global - regional events are essential. We are presently experiencing clusters of lower level earthquakes in the central and northwest parts of Arkansas, some of which have been correlated to deep injection but others that have more natural signatures. We are also part of the Central U.S. Seismic Zone (it is now the 200 year recognition of the past major New Madrid Seismic events; see "Great Central U.S. Shake-Out" modelled after the successful California public awareness model...http://www.shakeout.org/centralus/index.html ). Other geohazards that have affected my students include flash flooding. Unfortunately, residents and visitors to our state were directly and indirectly related to the high loss of life associated with the Albert Pike Recreational Area in June 2010; U.S.G.S. report was released November 2011. We are the "Natural State" and do have natural hazards to address.


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This post was edited by Ed Nuhfer on Jan, 2012
I once thought my introductory courses were an opportunity to interest students in geology and recruit geology majors. I never questioned that when I began teaching and actually had intense pressures from my department to do this. Somewhere, I made a radical change. I abandoned trying to use introductory courses to recruit geology majors and began to consider that practice self-serving and maybe a bit unethical.

Like others who have posted here, I like to make class topics relevant to the lives likely lived by laypersons who are the majority of students. So for a long time I've used homes/domestic dwellings as conceptual focus to serve the needs of students I have. In addition to the process based hazards that affect homes (earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and subsidence), materials based hazards such as radon, asbestos, expansive soils, domestic water supplies and hazards to the pocketbook that result from poor drainage and moisture and associated issues such as toxic mold, "sick building syndrome" can be realities that many will face. Even effects based on geographic latitude, such as light deprivation are pertinent to design and desirability of living. These make for a very interesting way to present introductory geology--both to students and to me.

It is not necessary that all the hazards be local to be relevant either. We have had a highly mobile population for decades now and students increasingly have an interest in knowing "what's out there."

I also have had students get copies of their parents homeowners insurance policies and draw up a table of what is covered in the policy alongside the local hazards that exist in the area where the home is sited. Many parents are surprised to learn what their policies exclude. I've even known geologists who were surprised by this.


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