Classroom Activities for Teaching Public Policy in the Earth Sciences

This collection of teaching materials allows for the sharing of ideas and activities within the community of geoscience teachers. Do you have a favorite teaching activity you'd like to share? Please help us expand this collection by contributing your own teaching materials.

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Geoethics Case Study: The Keystone Pipeline--Energy, Jobs or Environment? part of GeoEthics:Activities
David Mogk and Andrew Thorson, Montana State University-Bozeman Summary The Keystone Pipeline is a complex project that raises important environmental, economic, and international policy issues. Tar sands from ...

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
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Rethinking Sustainability Through the Humanities: Multi-Sensory Experience and Environmental Encounter Beyond the Classroom part of Curriculum for the Bioregion:Activities
This assignment pairs studies in environmental humanities with outdoor activity. Students complete a "field excursion" (gardening, hiking, environmental restoration) and reflect on sensory experiences involved in that activity to critique rationalist traditions/Cartesian legacies in their education more broadly.

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
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Justice, Power, and Activism: What the Goldman Environmental Prize Winners Teach Us About Resilience and Democracy part of Curriculum for the Bioregion:Activities
This activity is a set of student-centered exercises that enable students to learn about the individual stories of Goldman environmental prize winners, the activism and organizing that grounds their work, and the underlying political and social contexts from which their struggles emerge. The lesson inspires critical reflection about justice, power, and democracy in green politics, and encourages ways to make personal connections to activism and environmental work.

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Scientific Debate and the Nature of Certainty part of Integrate:Program Design:InTeGrate Program Models:Gustavus Adolphus:Teaching Activities
Students discuss and learn about the nature of scientific knowledge in the context of scientific and non-scientific debates about climate change. This 50-minute module can be taught in a small- to very large-size introductory religion, philosophy or ethics class.

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Environmental Pollution & Public Health part of Project EDDIE:Teaching Materials:Modules
Environmental health is a field of study within public health that is concerned with human-environment interactions, and specifically, how the environment influences public well-being. In this module, students will explore how environmental pollution impacts public health through comparing cancer rates of areas with known environmental pollutants to the national average through a t-test. Students can further their knowledge by comparing the concentrations of atmospheric pollutants in areas with known sources to control sites without such sources. Project EDDIE modules are designed with an A-B-C structure to make them flexible and adaptable to a range of student levels and course structures.

The Benefit of Acknowledging and Addressing Students' Uncomfortable Emotions when Learning about Environmental Issues: Fostering Growth and Change in Action-Oriented Exercises part of Curriculum for the Bioregion:Activities
Research reveals that if students are presented with negative information about environmental issues and they are not also provided with a plan for action, they often manifest denial on many levels. This exercise is designed to get students to directly address the emotions they face when learning about environmental issues and to make an action plan to address them in their individual lives.

Interdisciplinary Problem-Solving Project for the Science Classroom part of Curriculum for the Bioregion:Activities
Students are assigned unique roles and work independently to solve a complex problem from the perspective of their role (i.e. sociologist, educator, historian, etc.) Students then work collaboratively to present their findings and action plan to the "tribal council".

Environmental Ethics part of ACM Pedagogic Resources:ACM SAIL:2012 Seminar:Curricular Projects
This course focuses on two sets of issues in environmental ethics. The first set of issues, emerging significantly from practices such as animal agriculture and animal captivity in zoos, research facilities, and other settings, concerns the moral status of non-human animals. What kind of moral consideration are non-human animals owed? Do they have rights, and if so, how extensive are those rights? As a philosophy class, our emphasis is on the analysis of concepts and the critical evaluation of arguments. Beyond gaining a familiarity with the issue of the moral status of animals (along with the second issue of the class, not discussed here, concerning global climate change), students should expect to develop their analytic and evaluative skills through in-class discussion and a range of writing assignments.

A Game-Based Social Resilience Workshop: Thinking about Communal Response to Change part of Curriculum for the Bioregion:Activities
Social resilience is the capacity of a social entity to learn and adapt to sudden or gradual change, while continuing to fulfill the entity's purpose or function. This integrative and experiential workshop prompts students to apply previous learning about social resilience, social equity, social dilemma, and governance by experiencing several ways to approach a collective action problem in equitable resource distribution and management. The collective problem is modeled in the form of a card game that requires players to manage 12 plots of commonly-held crop and forest land under various conditions.

Group Dialogue – Promise and Peril of the Past and the Future part of Curriculum for the Bioregion:Activities
This 1 to 1.5 hour group dialogue offers an exploration of the different ways we respond to learning about climate change. It guides reflection on students' thoughts and feelings (hope and despair), how they view the current moment, the past and the future with regard to human/nature relationships and how to create positive lasting change.