Camille Holmgren: Using Changing Biosphere in World Natural Environments at SUNY Buffalo State
About this CourseThis is an introductory general education course. Although required for our majors, it is primarily populated by non-majors seeking to fulfill their natural science requirement.
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
This module was used over several weeks in an introductory physical geography course. Although required for geography majors, it is primarily populated by non-majors seeking to fulfill their natural science requirement. The focus on a big issue facing society—extinctions and biodiversity loss—led to a high level of engagement among students who came to the course with a range of academic backgrounds, interests, and abilities. Students were also introduced to scientific uncertainty and the idea that there is not always a single answer or approach for addressing societal issues such as setting priorities for biodiversity conservation.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterialsI taught this module in a 75-minute class period, which is longer than the 50-minute time period for which the lessons were designed. I used the extra time to implement the units at a more leisurely pace and/or had incorporated pre- and/or post-class assignments into the class time.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
I used the materials in the final third of my course after having covered material on the atmosphere, weather, climate and climate change, and biogeography. I used Unit 1 as an introduction before I covered plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes (non-Integrate material). After this, I returned to Integrate and used the rest of the units without a break.
AssessmentsI used all of the formative assessments embedded within the units except for Unit 3 (now Unit 2), where I had students turn in the handout for grading instead of the optional homework. The formative assessments allowed me to monitor student learning, provide feedback, and identify gaps and misconceptions. These could then be addressed while teaching the module and in my revision of materials. The summative assessment was included as part of the final exam, but could also be assigned as homework.
My primary goals for this module were to increase knowledge and foster curiosity about the natural environment by students at my urban institution. The focus on biodiversity loss, a critical issue facing society, really sparked interest. This was clear both in the classroom and pre- and post-instruction surveys. Through the module students were truly able to see the impact humans are having on biodiversity and could evaluate this impact in the context of the long-term geologic record.