Implementing InTeGrate Critical Zone Science materials in an undergraduate geoscience curriculum
Tim White, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
The InTeGrate course "Introduction to the Critical Zone Science" was developed by an interdisciplinary team from a variety of institutions to introduce and examine the life-sustaining services and resources provided by Earth's terrestrial layer, the Critical Zone (CZ). The CZ extends from the top of the vegetation canopy to fresh groundwater beneath the Earth's surface and includes coupled biological, chemical and physical systems that interact to support ecosystems and humans alike. The InTeGrate curriculum uses data and literature generated from the NSF CZ Observatory program and emphasizes a systems approach to understand the nature and methods of geosciences as well as to address geoscience-related grand challenges facing society. Pre- and post-testing administered in CZ Science courses piloted across a range of institutions showed gains in student perceptions that CZ skills learned through this material could help them tackle grand challenges in the future. Additional pre- and post-testing has been conducted in the most recent course offering at UNO in an effort to understand in more detail how CZ Science materials help to develop student learning and critical thinking skills. Although the CZ concept is new to many students, using a CZ approach to learn about Earth systems has the potential to deeply engage students and help develop skills to address humanities' grand challenges. One example of implementing this material into an undergraduate geoscience curriculum is described here. At the University of Nebraska – Omaha (UNO), a large, 4-year public and primarily non-residential campus, students pursuing undergraduate degrees or minors in Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies or M.A. degrees in Geography can take the course to fulfill upper-level degree requirements. The initial two course offerings each included 14 students, taught over two 75-minute sessions or one 150-minute session per week; future course offerings will include an additional 2-hour lab section.