Cultural Anthro: Final Paper and Poster

Nona Moskowitz, Wittenberg University, Sociology
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Summary

Students research a case of environmental injustice. They select a situation where the actions of a more powerful group have created an environmental problem for a group of people that have less power or less political clout in their society. In the write-up, they briefly describe the group (demographics, culture, history), discuss the problem and its cause(s), explain the effects of this problem on the local community and describe any ways the community has protested the problem or its effects.

For the second part of the project, students pretend that their group has been invited to a conference on environmental justice. As part of that conference, there is a poster session to educate the public about cases of environmental injustice across the globe. They make a poster that introduces some of the information they have learned about the group they researched and the situation this group faces. Students will present their poster and explain to visitors what they have learned about the environmental injustice affecting the group.

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Learning Goals

The goal of the exercise is to have students think critically about forms of exploitation less powerful groups in the world experience. I wanted them to think about whether the group has felt empowered to resist, whether outside groups are involved in that protest, and what kind of narrative gets constructed about the problem in the course of that protest. Additionally, as a course that tries to look holistically at cultural groups outside of the historical west, I wanted students to learn a bit about the group before exploring the problem.

The poster session served as a way to have students take some further ownership of the knowledge gained. While the poster session was informal, in the sense that students presented their research to groups of classmates as everyone wandered around (vs. presenting individually in front of the class), the informality meant that students could focus on relaying the content and gave greater opportunity for individual conversations. I, of course, visited all of the posters as well, which required some professionalism in the tone of students' delivery.

Context for Use

This assignment was used in an introductory level college course at a liberal arts college. The class is typically between 25 and 32 students, but the assignment can be adapted to different class sizes. The paper portion was researched and written outside of class. One class period was used for the poster session. I also gave students a class period to work on the posters in class, but this is optional. The subset of questions students needed to answer in the paper reflect the goals of the assignment for my class. At the minimum, the idea of environmental injustice should be introduced, but the questions can be adapted to the goals of another course.

Description and Teaching Materials

The first part of the assignment was a typical research paper and instructors can decide what degree of academic and nonacademic sources best suits the class. My students used trifold poster boards to make their posters. As I gave them a class period to work on their posters, I brought in markers, scissors, glue... and students made posters the old-fashioned way.




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