Demonstrate Cultural Relevance

This page was developed as a synthesis of lessons learned by participants in InTeGrate program models and is part of an extended set of InTeGrate resources on increasing the diversity of students learning about the Earth.

InTeGrate: Develop Cultural Competency »When teaching Earth Science it is important to acknowledge the student, faculty, and institutional background as well as their contribution to the regional environment. Effective educators strive to acknowledge the variety of background experiences students and faculty bring to the classroom and ensure that the materials and methods are representative of this diversity. In learning about the environment, students should be provided with opportunities to connect their learning experiences to their own lives and also actively contribute to the learning process.

Utilize Local Context

Local examples, including those on campus and in the surrounding community, often offer a rich collection of opportunities for students to apply their classroom knowledge to real world issues. Further, working in the local environment couples this applied knowledge with an opportunity to improve upon skills such as working with field equipment, critical thinking, and team work. The nature of working with local examples engages students because it builds on their sense of place and can help students make connections between what they learn and their everyday experiences.

Claflin University
The InTeGrate materials were adjusted by the team to address national or world issues related to climate change as well as local issues that the communities students come from have been dealing with.
University of South Dakota
Listen to community voices: At USD (Missouri River project) students were able to hear from NICC students and Santee Sioux elders about the impact of the dams on their land.
University of Texas - El Paso
The three institutions on the team worked to collectively educate students for careers that existed locally because most can't or won't go elsewhere for work.

Teach with Local Examples and Data »

Explore the Impacts of Socioeconomic Differences

While extreme weather events impact people across the socio-economic spectrum, research has shown that natural and anthropogenic hazards disproportionately affect certain socioeconomic strata, especially people of color and those who live in poverty. For example, lacking political and economic power, minorities and poor groups have less clout with the government bodies that make decisions about where to locate power plants, processing facilities and waste sites and are more likely to have their homes located in hazard prone areas. Approaching learning about the earth from the standpoint of environmental justice can help students in these groups or from these areas engage with the important issues in their everyday lives.

California State University - Chico
At CSU Chico, faculty used the Natural Hazards and Risk module in an InTeGrate-infused non-majors course to relate types and impacts of hazards in other regions compared to our own regional hazards and related risks. This was particularly impactful in 2016 where the aftermath of several large fires highlighted socio-economic and geographic regional issues with environmental justice undertones. The team also used earthquakes as examples because most students had personal experience with them.
Claflin University
At Claflin University, the InTeGrate-infused courses used the catastrophic flash floods striking South Carolina in 2015 as a comparison to the Katrina example provided by the "Map Your Hazards" module. The political environment dealing with the extreme weather event was pointed out in both cases along with the outcomes (positive and negative). Students could also learn how diverse populations deal with catastrophes. This example also fit the space-time category.

Other InTeGrate Resources

Workshop: Coastal Hazards, Risks, and Environmental Justice
This workshop enabled teams of faculty members and administrators, especially from minority-serving institutions, to explore the interplay among Coastal Hazards, Risk, and Environmental Justice and develop plans for actions on their own campuses to better incorporate these issues into their programs.

Webinar: Teaching Sustainability and Environmental Justice in the Humanties and Social Science
Bringing the grand challenge issues that face society to the undergraduate classroom requires an interdisciplinary approach that creates buy-in and builds connections. Including these issues in humanities and social science enriches and deepens the conversation and creates connections and also introduces complications that need to be addressed.

Module: Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources
This module enables students to identify the freshwater components of the hydrologic cycle and connect them to the basic need of all human beings for equal access to clean freshwater. This is accomplished by framing the water science within theories of environmental justice.

Help Faculty Employ Proven Educational Practices

Many faculty have no formal training in active learning pedagogies and other proven practices for attracting or supporting diverse students in their classrooms. Providing opportunities for faculty to learn and practice those techniques is going to be very important to the the success of such efforts.

University of Northern Colorado
The UNC team ran two workshops for faculty involved in their project: Developing Society-Relevant Activities in Upper Division Core Science Courses and Building Diversity Awareness to Promote Student Success. Both of these workshops helped the faculty engage their students in ways that are known to be effective.
Claflin University The Claflin team ran a workshop for their faculty entitled Earth Sciences Curriculum Modification and Adaptation for Culturally Relevant Teaching at a HBCU Institution in order to discuss challenges with implementing InTeGrate materials in their context as well as develop adaptations that would help faculty succeed with them.

Program Themes