Curt Gervich: Using Regulating Carbon Emissions in Environment and Society at SUNY College at Plattsburgh
About this CourseENV 201 is typically the first course students in SUNY Plattsburgh's Environmental Science and Studies majors take.
Environment and Society (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 41kB Jun22 16)
Learning through Resistance: Students voice dislike for interdisciplinary work but learn in the process (despite best efforts not to!)
The course is broad introduction to environmental challenges including those related to water, air, biodiversity, climate, energy, population, waste and consumption, among others. The course examines these dilemmas through the lens of structuralism. Therefore, we explore how societal structures such as family, community, race and gender, politics, economics, science and the media influence our perspectives and values related to environmental topics. Over the past few semesters I have "flipped" the classroom. Consequently, for most class sessions students are asked to watch/listen to video/audio publications outside of class and to discuss these experiences together in small groups during the class sessions. Many class sessions also include an "activity" component such as brief internet research projects, mapping projects, or writing exercises, for example.
Students often challenge interdisciplinary, learner-centered pedagogies. The students with whom I piloted the Regulating Carbon Emissions Module were exemplary in this regard. At every turn they pushed me to return to traditional lecture and discussion formats because these activities are comfortable and allow students to hide behind the protections of their disciplinary silos.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterialsWhile piloting the module I found that there was simply too much information included. I eliminated about 50% of each unit, instead focusing on content that seemed most meaningful to my students. This meant focusing on the impacts of climate change documented in the National Assessment; social costs of carbon; the politics and evolution of the Clean Power Plan; and the approaches to carbon regulations most commonly preferred by industry.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
ENV 201 is a semester long course. I implemented the module at the end of the semester, framing it as an opportunity to observe the society-environment interactions we explored throughout the term in a global context. Prior to the module we discussed topics such as environmental ethics and values, justice and equality, the application of science to environmental problem solving and policy, and the influence of the economy in the creation and management of environmental challenges. All of these topics arose during the module, and it proved an excellent way to illustrate the integrative and compounding effects of society on regulation of carbon emissions. Because the module was carried out near the end of the term there were not many opportunities to return to the lessons embedded. Howeverm following the module our class read Philippe Squarzoni's Climate Changed, and found this book was a good read in conjunction with the module. Climate Changed covered many of the same issues at a global scale, and thus embedded the U.S. response to climate change in an international context.
AssessmentsI assigned the Role, Audience, Format, Topic (RAFT) assignment as a summative assessment to the module. Approximately half the class seemed to enjoy the creativity of the assignment and opportunity to think outside their roles as students. Several students wrote creative and thoughtful letters to the editor. The remaining half of the class seemed to struggle with the concept of role play and would have benefited from previous opportunities to use the RAFT format. I believe it is an effective writing prompt/assignment, but students need to more opportunities to practice their creative and persuasive writing skills as well as shifting perspectives. For some students the assignment seemed overwhelming.
During the pilot, I was unsure whether students were getting much from the module. As we proceeded through the units and it became apparent that there was too much content, our constant need to assess where we were, how much time we had left, and our goals, the units became a bit erratic. Reducing the amount of content and placing more focused content on specific learning objectives will help make the module more operational. However, once the module was complete and students were engaged in our final class activity—a reading of the book Climate Changed by Philippe Squarzoni—students did connect the Regulating Carbon Emissions module to the book and previous course activities. This, to me, signaled success.