Using Project EDDIE modules in Current Environmental Challenges Analysis and Solutions

Sue Gass, Dalhousie University

About this Course

Current Environmental Challenges Analysis and Solutions

Lecture and Lab

Introductory Undergraduate

Majors and Non-Majors

students in the course

EDDIE Module(s) Adopted and/or Adapted

Environmental Pollution & Public Health module

The module was run in an introductory Environmental Science course with 120 students, approximately 50 majors in Environmental Science and 70 non-majors. The course has two lectures per week and a weekly tutorial. The tutorials are run by teaching assistants under the guidance of the instructor and have 20 students in each group.

The course aims to introduce students to quantitative reasoning as a method to address and better understand current environmental challenges. Working with data in this EDDIE module allowed students to deepen their understanding of the science behind the course concepts. Specifically, this EDDIE module was an excellent fit because it tied together three learning objectives in the course including concepts around air pollution, challenges with fossil fuel extraction, and the connections between human health and the environment. The module specifically matches with case studies already being discussed in the course readings and lectures including the case study of mountain top removal coal extraction in the Appalachian Mountains.

I adapted the module slightly so that Parts A and B were taught in the lecture period as a demonstration and students completed Part C during the 80-minute tutorial the following next week. The students easily drew the connections between the EDDIE module and the course learning outcomes.

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

Relationship of EDDIE Module(s) to my Course

This module helped students reach the following three course learning objectives: 
1) describe the environmental, social, and economic impacts of using fossil fuels, 2) describe the health, economic, social, and ecological consequences of air pollution, and 3) build quantitative reasoning skills. The students had three chapters assigned for background reading from their course textbook, "Environmental Science for a Changing World" by Karr (2021). The first was Module 10.1 Air Pollution, which was covered during the first week of term. The second was Module 9.1 Coal, which was covered during week 4, and finally, Module 4.3 Environmental Health and Toxicology, was assigned during week 10 just before the students completed the EDDIE module.

Teaching Details

I took advantage of the A, B, C approach that is used for the EDDIE module. However, due to time constraints, I ran Parts A and B with the whole class as a demonstration during lecture (80 mins) while encouraging those students who had laptops in class to follow along in Excel. Students then completed Part C the following week during their 80 minute tutorial. The teaching assistants worked with the class of 20 students to go through Part C step by step. The teaching assistants were able to answer questions as they came up and check in with the class as they worked through the questions in the handout. Students who were comfortable using Excel were allowed to move forward at a faster pace if they so wished. The teaching assistants were instructed not to help with the answers to the last three questions in Part C. These were assigned as assessed homework to be handed in the following week.

I adapted the EDDIE Powerpoint slides to include more background information from the course textbook and included some slides of the results from Parts A and B. I removed the video about smog as we had already covered smog earlier in the course. I changed question 23 in the original handout for Part C to have students look at the data from 08-14-2020 which demonstrated the PM2.5 levels in California during a severe wildfire season. As some of my students were from the western part of Canada, which has been experiencing increased wildfire activity, I decided this may be relevant to their own experiences and capture their attention.

I used the following additional resources:

  • I added a link to a story map which provides more details on the Louisiana Cancer Valley produced by ProPublica an independent nonprofit newsroom. We explored the map as an introduction to Part B.
  • I included a short YouTube video produced by Guelph University, which explains t-tests as part of the lecture for Part A and B.
  • The students were assessed based on their participation during the tutorial and handed in the last three questions from Part C to be graded. The teaching assistants made sure all students were completing the steps for Part C and students were awarded 1 participation point for doing so. The last three questions in the handout were worth 4 points for a total of 5 points. The assignment was one of nine tutorial assignments and was worth 2.2% of the overall course grade.

Adaption Materials

Part C Handout (Acrobat (PDF) 229kB Jul27 23)

In class demo data (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 155kB Jul27 23)

Adapted slides (Acrobat (PDF) 732kB Jul27 23)

How did the activity go?

The material in this EDDIE module scaffolded very effectively with the existing course material. I ran the tutorial several weeks after we discussed air pollution and mountain-top removal and as we were discussing human health and the environment. Therefore, it provided an opportunity for review of earlier material and demonstrated how concepts presented throughout the course were connected in various ways. In the lecture demonstration of Parts A and B, I tried to work through the ProPublica Cancer Valley story map. However, there was too much information to cover so I cut the review short to move forward with the data analysis demonstration.

Having the teaching assistants guide the students through Part C at the front of the tutorial class worked well and prevented those students less familiar with Excel from getting lost or falling behind. Those students who preferred to move a little quicker were able to do so because the written instructions are very detailed.

The students were able to document and write about the connections between mountain top removal activities and PM2.5 concentrations in the air. Students were able to successfully complete the steps to determine if there was a significant difference between the two data sets based on the p-value. Many students were able to understand the meaning of statistical significance and the role of the p-value, however, some misunderstood or were not able to clearly articulate these connections in the assessed homework questions. Once the assessment had been graded the teaching assistants provided feedback to each tutorial section. This module was used as an introduction to the statistical concepts and students following the Major in Environmental Science will build on this introduction to t-tests and p-values in subsequent courses.

Future Use

This instructor story and adaption materials were developed during a Project EDDIE Faculty Mentoring Network in partnership with QUBES in the spring of 2023.

Project EDDIE Faculty Mentoring Network logo

I will use this module again next year. Next time, I will have students pair up during the lecture so that everyone is following along with the demonstration of Parts A and B. I will assign the ProPublica story map as reading ahead of the lecture with targeted questions for the student to consider. Then rather than trying to run through the whole story map in lecture, I will review the answers to the questions through a class discussion. This should save time in class but allow the students to have a chance to read about those parts of the story that are most interesting to them.

A third change I will make is the use of the colored sticky notes. This is a method I have learned from a colleague who often teaches data analysis in lectures. Students are given three different colors of sticky notes and they attach the color that corresponds to how they are doing with the exercise to their laptop where it is visible to the instructor. For example, a blue sticky note could mean, "I'm doing fine and working through the task," yellow could mean, "I've completed the task and am ready for the next step," and pink could mean, "I'm stuck and require assistance". Making the sticky notes visible to everyone also means students can help each other if they see a peer is struggling. This will allow the instructor to easily identify who needs help and when everyone is ready to move on to the next step.