The Special Place Project: A Mechanism for Creating a Place-Based Geoscience Course for use with High School and Undergraduate Populations

Thursday 3:00pm REC Center Medium Ice Overlook Room
Oral Presentation Part of Teaching For Diversity


Place-based approaches for attracting students to the geosciences and preparing them for careers involving the Earth have gained attention as a means for involving underserved populations such as Native Americans as well as the broader student population. Place-based approaches range from single day activities for individuals to semester long projects involving the entire class. This presentation will discuss a place-based technique in which an entire introductory geoscience class is placed in such a context.

Individual students conduct semester-long personal case studies of a place of their choosing while the class collectively explores a case selected by the instructor. Students use rock samples, maps, Google Earth, and photographs to apply the geoscience content they are learning to explore the class place. Students describe what they are seeing, explore the landscape and use their observations and insights to develop hypotheses explaining the geologic origin of the place, on-going geologic processes altering the environment, make predictions for its future evolution and specify the role that humans have played and will play in the place in the future. Students also speculate on how anthropogenic climate change may impact the place and options for mitigation.

The activities conducted by the class serve as a model for the techniques and goals the student is asked to achieve in their individual case studies. While students are not required to visit their places or provide hand samples during the semester, they are assisted in using photographic, map and Google Earth data along with their own memories and insights to develop their case studies. The multi-stage written project demonstrates each student's ability to utilize the geologic content they are learning in an authentic and engaging assessment demonstrating critical skills all colleges strive to build in their graduates.