To Teach is to Learn: Final Project in Environmental or Intro Geology

Leah Joseph
Ursinus College
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Initial Publication Date: November 7, 2008 | Reviewed: October 22, 2012


This assignment asks students to create their own geological educational activity or demonstration (and corresponding write-up) which all students then present/enact during a conference-style presentation session on the last day of class.

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This activity has been used in both introductory undergraduate geology courses that I teach, which includes a number of our Environmental Studies majors, but is primarily full of students needing to fulfill the schools lab science requirement.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Skills that would be helpful for students to have mastered include:
General geological knowledge (activity is at the end of course)
Ability to read and summarize geological concepts and learn beyond class content
Technical writing
Presentation/group work skills
Ability to think creatively about concepts learned in class.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the culminating project that allows the students to further investigate topics of their own interest within geology. It is based on the concept that you must understand a topic/concept before you can teach it to others well.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Any concept within an introductory geology or environmental geology class (students select own topic), although this activity could be modified to include only specific fields.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will need to be able to research a topic and synthesize the information to then communicate it in simple and helpful fashion to those new to the topic. Depending on the topic they select, they may need to conceptualize how to break down a larger concept (or scale) to a small, quick model for the classroom.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students also get experience in technical writing, research on a science topic, searching the internet, presentation skills, teaching skills, professionalism, detail orientation, and sometimes group work as well as others as their project dictates.

Description of the activity/assignment

This is the final project/presentation for undergraduate students in a relatively small introductory geoscience class where most (but not all) students are taking the class to satisfy their lab science requirement. Students are asked to create their own geological teaching demonstration and/or activity geared to high school or college geoscience classes which allows students to deepen their knowledge in a particular area of their interest. The style of the assignment is similar to the labs in the course where the students participation is "requested" in a (fictional) letter of request and they must respond appropriately with a letter of reply as well as completion of the specific assignment (which, in this case, includes the activity/demonstration, Teacher's Notes, Supply List, Geological Background, and Peer Evaluations). In addition to creating this demonstration/activity and write-up, the students much also trial and present their demonstration/activity to the rest of the class, the instructor, and a visiting K-12 environmental scientist in a conference-style session (name-tags and program provided) for evaluation.

Determining whether students have met the goals

There are three ways students are evaluated:
  1. Peer evaluations obtained during their presentation on both the presentation and the activity. As well, in group work, self/peer evaluations are obtained from any group members.
  2. A local environmental K-12 educator also attends the presentation and provides her input and evaluation of the activity and presentation
  3. I use a rubric to evaluate the presentation, activity, and submitted write-ups

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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