Integrating Natural Disaster Activities into the College Curriculum: Two Role-Play Case Study Examples

Friday 3:15pm REC Center Medium Ice Overlook Room
Oral Presentation Part of Sustainability and the Environment


Adelle Monteblanco, University of Colorado at Boulder
Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity. Local and international events such as flooding, storms, and earthquakes often catch students' attention and therefore these events offer valuable "teaching moments" to improve undergraduate earth education. Furthermore, activities on the topic of natural disasters can easily support earth education learning goals including geoscientific skills, critical thinking, and effective communication.

Within this presentation I will discuss two separate role-play case study activities that are designed to prepare students for an increasingly unstable world. The first is a floodwater management case study (recently accepted for publication by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science) that requires students to explore how healthy river systems can continue to serve a wide variety of functions while accounting for economic, cultural, and ecosystem tradeoffs. The second case study imitates a community meeting organized in response to a local oil spill. Through the simulation of real-world events, the case studies require students to represent diverse stakeholders, synthesize social and natural science data, and argue analytically. I will present lessons learned from these classroom applications as well as offer resources to implement the case studies within a diversity of courses.

These case studies were created in response to student requests for teaching methods that focus on relevant real-world crises and emphasize the complexity of environmental issues. Let's meet students' feelings of urgency and alarm with teaching efforts that prepare them to positively contribute to community resilience.

(Footnote: please note that the floodplain case study was created by a team of natural and social scientists (including Sandra Laurine Cooke, Alicia Claire Lloyd, and Silvia Secchi) and with the financial support offered through previous SESYNC workshop participation.)

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