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Describe what you see as opportunities for service learning in the geosciences. Where does our subject matter particularly lend itself to this teaching approach  

Day 2, Assignment 1 Thought Question:
Describe what you see as opportunities for service learning in the geosciences. Where does our subject matter particularly lend itself to this teaching approach?


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In general, I hope that geoscience-based SL projects would utilize the approaches, methods, instruments, etc. that we use in the conduct of our normal work as geoscientists. Let's get our Science out to the public so they can see it in practice, and better understand the contributions we make to society. Some examples: 1) Working with maps, including GIS and GPS--we map all kinds of things, and preparation of maps can be a great SL product, e.g. hazards maps, flood plain investigations, siting a new landfill, plotting water well data.... 2) Departmental instruments. If you have an AA or ICP unit, do water analyses for trace or toxic elements. Use your XRD to analyze for asbestos. 3) Use our predictive capabilities (probabilities) to do a SL project--earthquakes, floods, etc.. 4)Use our explanatory abilities: impacts of climate change on our local geography/population. 5) Use our natural laboratory of Earth to get people out into Nature and inspire them to learn more. 5) Environmental issues--we all have them in our backyard. 6) Water issues--clean water (quantity and quality) will continue to be a huge issue for all communities.


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I see service learning projects in every direction...water resources, alternative energy sources, monitoring the Earth Systems, restoring and moderating wildland fire damage, developing sustainablility practices and empowering students to teach and reach others in the community. As I reflect on the 8 block I see that I need to tighten up my implementation plan, clarify my objectives, realistically address what can be done with 8th grade in terms of on and off campus work. Most importantly I need to provide more project ownership to my partners and students instead of using them for $$ and labor. I have that in mind, but organizing and implementing takes a lot of forethought and sometimes you are bogged down in how to get it done with limited resources. I want to make sure I'm taking advantage of every possibility for students to learn, feel ownership and to feel good about their contributions.


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In class, I always describe geology as a science of time (along with history, archeo/anthro, and deep time physics). Humans have a lot of trouble visualizing the passage of time, including recurrence intervals, slow trends, and accumulated impacts. A fruitful line of endeavor, therefore, may be baseline studies that can be continued by subsequent classes. Such a buy-in may grow to the point where students choose a school or major because they have heard about The Project!


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I struggle to find projects that are appropriate for courses. My students are mainly non-science majors. Our college is in a very rural area. I hoped that I would get some ideas about what you are all doing (and I have). But if anyone has more ideas for me that would be great. We are working on making recycling work on our campus and in our community, we have tested well water (not anymore), we have responded with contributions to victims of disasters. Any other ideas for Intro geology or Physical Geography or Environmental Geology (again non-majors, non-science) courses?


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For Renee, are there applications of GIS or satellite imagery/data that might be useful - maybe land use change in rural areas? This doesn't address the community part of it- without knowing what the needs of the community are it is hard to say if this would tie in.


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Renee, Are there state or local parks nearby? Is there any Federal recreation land near campus? Does the Nature Conservancy or some local land trust protect land from development? Does the campus have undeveloped land somewhere? Any or all of these agencies may need some basic mapping or surveying. Maybe they need a trails map. Maybe they need some interpretation of local geological features. Maybe they need a map of the biological landscape that could be done jointly by classes in geo and bio. Where do people like to hike? An interpretive trail map (geology and biology) might be created and distributed through the local outdoors store or association. I am not sure mountain bikers would want it too, but you could try. I saw on your campus web page that you have a top notch woman climber. Maybe an interpretative guide for the climbing club (team) would be just the thing.



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Rene, We have had a number of non-science education students who have produced field guides for local parks and elementary school groups. I had a particular student who worked with the same school two semesters in a row. The first semester she developed a field guide for the green area right outside their school. She made a map using gps, identified trees and listed their gps coordicates. The next semester she developed a guide to help younger children identify trees based on their leaves.
If sustainability is receiving a lot of attention on your campus, like it is on ours, there are other possible activities in which to engage students: working to set up a sustainability house on campus, school gardens, developing programs to educate incoming students. Students could also work on calculating a simplified carbon footprint and make suggestions on how to lower it.


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In response to Stephanie, one of the projects I'll finish writing up this weekend is called Trail Guides. My geology majors hiked with me every Sunday this fall to produce a series of web-based trail guides explaining the geologic history of three of our most popular trails in the area. For a sneak preview go to: http://serc.carleton.edu/research_education/trail_guides/index.html


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Earth is the water planet and water is essential for life, yet the low cost and ready accessibility of water have resulted in a disconnection of the need to conserve and protect this natural resource. SL on water resource topics can be undertaken in all communities to build capacity to prepare citizens to face forcasted water resource constraints. We need educators to take the lead.


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Thanks to everyone for your suggestions!


Share edittextuser=3164 post_id=4856 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=1480

At Unity College, we undertake a wide variety of projects such as those discussed above. In areas other than geoscience, our artists make pottery bowls (along with donations form local potters and the public schools art students) which are used at a soup and bread fund-raiser for the food pantry. We make maps for the historical society, trail guides for paths through town and throught the woods, maintain local trails, design learning activities for the elementary school, work with animal rescue groups, run a search and rescue unit.
In geosicence we are somewhat limited to water quality issues and general reserach actitivities endorsed by local NGOs like Friends of Unity Wetlands. There are only 2 geoscientists here and I am supposed to be the chemist. Pond eutrophication is a big problem in our area and we have worked on several related problems: the effect of storm water on Phosphate concentrations on Pattee Pond; the effect of redesigning the dirt roads through a wetland on erosion and sedmient loading in a pond.
I agree long term data sets would be a good idea for water quality and selected other studies. Noel Potter (Dickinson College) once described a 20 year project he did evaluating how fast small stream meanders changed on the strem near his campus. each year his studnets mapped stream channel and compared it to previous years work.
I like the idea of responding to an immediate community need but think that works best with upper-level students.


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