Using Project EDDIE modules in Exploring Earth

Anne Meltzer, Lehigh University

About this Course

Exploring Earth

Laboratory Course

Introductory Undergraduate


students in the course

EDDIE Module(s) Adopted and/or Adapted

Sustainability Metrics module

Exploring Earth uses the "Earth Science Literacy Initiative" framework (  to introduce students to Earth systems and the interaction and influence of these systems in everyday life. The course uses a variety of open source data to develop students' quantitative reasoning skills and understanding of credible data sources as a foundation for informed, evidence based decisions around issues of land use, biodiversity, resources, hazards, and climate change. In the sustainability module students use GapMinder, an interactive data exploration and visualization tool, to assess human impact on Earth systems. Using the impact = population x affluence x technology (IPAT) framework students examine sustainability metrics by country over time.

Jump to: Course Context | Teaching Details | How It Went | Future Use

Relationship of EDDIE Module(s) to my Course

The EDDIE sustainability metrics module was included in a lab designed around Big Idea 9 of the Earth Science Literacy Initiative: Humans Significantly Alter the Earth. This lab takes place in the 12th week of a 14 week semester. It is the final lab in the course. In the last two weeks of the semester students work on an integrative project. By this time of the semester, students have had lots of practice working with diverse sets of data. They have also been introduced (indirectly) to the IPAT framework in a previous lab on resource use, distribution, and limits. As this is a stand alone laboratory course for non-majors, all material including framing concepts, context, relevance, and lab instruction is presented within a single 2 hour 40 minute block. This single block includes the time necessary for students to complete and turn in the lab within the lab period.

Teaching Details

The sustainability metrics module was the second part of a two part lab. The first part of the lab looked at anthropogenic impact on water resources. As this is a non-major course and the lab included an additional exercise, only parts A and B were implemented. When introducing the module, we launch GapMinder together. The app is running and projected onscreen. We work through the first part of Part A (learning how to use GapMinder) together. Then students complete the remaining sections of Part A and Part B on their own. Parts A and B were completed in approximately an hour. As this was the first implementation of this module, very little was changed. As with cooking, unless there's an obvious problem with the recipe I tend to follow it the first time through, and then modify it the next time if needed or desired. The student guide with the lab module was modified to fit the structure and format of labs in the course. We use a LMS system. All labs have an online material and instruction document and an answer template that students use to complete the lab and upload to the LMS system. All grading is online through the LMS system. Using the lab template simplifies online assessment.


Adaption Materials

Student Handout for Sustainability Metrics (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 13kB Jul27 23)

Answer Template for Sustainability Metrics (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 10kB Jul27 23)

How did the activity go?

Because students were already familiar with working with a variety of data and had seen and worked with the IPAT framework in a previous lab, implementing this module was relatively straightforward. Had that not been the case, an instructor would need to build in sufficient time up front to explain the data and IPAT framework. Working through the initial sections of Part A as a group reduces student anxiety and/or frustration that can come with using new data visualization tools and unfamiliar data. It also keeps the class moving through the lab at a similar pace which makes it easier to answer questions, creates a sense of cohesion, and allows students to explore the data sets in Part B together. It also helps student focus on exploring the data and what they show rather than struggling with the specifics of a new app.

Students really enjoyed the lab. As this module was implemented late in the semester, they had prior experience working with a variety of data using a variety of tools. This allowed the to focus on exploration of the data to see how different countries and different lifestyles impact the environment.

Future Use

This instructor story and adaption materials were developed during a Project EDDIE Faculty Mentoring Network in partnership with QUBES in the fall of 2022.

Project EDDIE Faculty Mentoring Network logo

When implementing this module next time, students will do Part B in pairs. We'll also build in time for student pairs to share their results with the class as a whole and to end with a larger class discussion of human impacts on Earth systems and how this relates to sustainability. We do this in most of the labs and students really get a lot out of the class discussion. It helps shift the students from a transactional mindset (what do I need to do to finish and move on) to what can I learn and share with others. This seems to help make the material and concepts more relevant to the students.

The complete sustainability metrics module, parts A, B, and C will be used in an Earth and Environmental majors course on sustainability.