Using the Project EDDIE Major Ions in Freshwater Systems module in Environmental Processes, Challenges, and Methods

Megan Kelly, Loyola University Chicago

About this Course

Environmental Processes, Challenges, and Methods

Lecture and Lab

Introductory Undergraduate


students in the course

students in the section

EDDIE Module Developed

This module introduces students to a common and important source of freshwater pollution that invites debate about how to address the problem. By examining publicly available data, students can discover what types of environments are likely to suffer from road salt pollution, compare environmental concentrations of chloride to concentrations of legal and biological concern, and either defend the use of sodium chloride for road deicing or propose another solution, based on their understanding of the data.

Jump to: Course Context | Teaching Details | Student Outcomes

Relationship of EDDIE Module(s) to my Course

I piloted this module in Spring 2021, while conducting remote teaching asynchronously. All students in this course are provided with Windows laptops with Microsoft Office pre-installed, although some students haver personal laptops with other operating systems and software. This module served as a lab activity in week 5 of 15, the week after students completed lecture content (videos, discussion forums, and online homework) focused on water. This was the second lab activity of the semester. The first lab activity had students collaborate in groups and as a class to collect and organize data, followed by individual analysis of the class data in Excel. For this asynchronous online course, each lab had its own "lesson" page in our course management system. Students were directed to first read a Chicago Tribune article or listen to a WBEZ clip on the subject, and were given optional readings of the Smithsonian Magazine or Earth Institute articles. After completing the reading, students were directed to view a recorded presentation of the Instructor Powerpoint, and then to work through the Student Handout. Students who completed sections A, B, and the assessment question earned full credit, and section C was offered as extra credit, which 6 students completed. One of the core objectives for the course is, "Students will master basic scientific techniques related to the study of the environment," and the collection of data from publicly available sources and analysis over multiple periods of time advance that objective.

Teaching Details

What key suggestions would you give to a colleague before they used the activity in their teaching?
For students not accustomed to working extensively with data, section A and B are quite demanding, but section C brings the water quality issue into focus. When I do this module again, I will probably break it up into two sessions: I would have students turn in A and B, provide feedback, and then assign part C. I would also be more explicit in my expectations for the assessment question, to prompt students to explicitly link their data analysis and what they learned in the readings to their answer. It may also be helpful to include situate road salt in a broader discussion of pollutant types and sources, so students can differentiate salt pollution from other pollutants such as hydrocarbons, nutrients, and litter.

How did you address challenges in teaching with the module?
In the context of an asynchronous class, I conducted 1:1 zoom meetings with students who got stuck in different parts of the lab. I look forward to teaching this module in person! When I have taught other data-intensive labs in person, I typically direct students with the same operating system to sit together so that differences in operating system can be addressed easily and students can support one another.

Student Outcomes

This module prompted students to consider intraannual patterns and link them to seasons. The module also prompted students to describe the shape of the graphs they created and consider the physical meaning of the shapes of their graphs. It also prompted students to compare environmental concentrations to concentrations of legal and biological concern, and use those comparisons to make a policy recommendations.

This module improved students' ability to access publicly available data, as evidenced by the very few questions I received about using the USGS website. While it wasn't the first time any of the students used Excel, many students who needed help making the first scatterplot or the first pivot table did not need additional help to make additional scatterplots or pivot tables.