Take A Hike Assignment

Anne Jefferson
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
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Students are assigned to take a hike in a location of their choice and write a concise summary of their observations of Earth Science features and processes. This assignment is used near the end of an Earth Systems Science class to encourage students to apply the concepts and terms learned in lecture to a real world setting.

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This activity is used an in an introductory Earth System Science course that is primarily non-majors. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is a suburban campus in a large metropolitan area. Students come from diverse backgrounds.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have been exposed to concepts and terms related to weather, surface processes, and ecosystems.

How the activity is situated in the course

This assignment is due near the end of the term, and it is intended to help synthesize and apply the topics discussed in class.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Observation and description of Earth Science features and processes

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Observation and application of earth science concepts to real-world situations

Other skills goals for this activity

Writing in a concise and precise fashion

Description of the activity/assignment

Over the course of the semester, the course covers many earth science topics that are easily observable on a casual but attentive walk through a natural area. Because the course does not have linked labs or field trips, this assignment attempts to get students to put their observation skills and content knowledge to the test by taking a hike and describing four Earth Science features or processes that they observe. These features and processes might include things like weather, streams, hillslope erosion, soil horizons, habitats or ecological succession.

When I introduce the assignment I spend 15 minutes discussing different places students might choose to take their hike. I make sure to highlight places near campus that can be reached without a car, as well as county parks that freshmen new to the area might not be aware of. Many students also choose to do the assignment on a weekend visit home to their parents and a favorite park or trail.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I have a detailed set of evaluation criteria which are provided to the students along with an example assignment. These criteria are provided in the activity description below.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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