Initial Publication Date: April 9, 2018

Designing Courses around Central Geoscience & Environmental Issues in your Community

Designing activities or courses around issues equips students to face earth resource challenges into the future. It also attracts and supports new students into our discipline that care about achieving societal outcomes. Courses might invite professionals in your community who work on or are affected by these issues to serve as guest speakers, and/or build your course around the civic skills and habits needed to address the challenge. Or you might have students explore current legislation (see: or follow policy briefs like those on the The Geological Society of America Science and Policy pages. Learning goals might include: analyzing local data, reflecting on identity and/or cultural perspectives important to problem solving, systems thinking, and more. Students better master skills and habits needed to address issues if they are given multiple opportunities for practice. Instructors who already have familiarity with backward design might simply use the Planning Around Locally Relevant Issues Worksheet (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 23kB Mar1 21) to identify opportunities, or consider using strategies from community science (community-based participatory research) embedded in your teaching (see: Geoscience for Community Priorities). Similarly, consider design around criteria from the AAC&U Civic Engagement VALUE Rubric or Southern Poverty Law Center Social Justice Standards. The Course Design Tutorial provides more details on developing overarching goals, ancillary goals, and aligning assessments. You might consider pairing a course design tutorial with Inclusion by Design a resource that guides reflection on structuring our classes to support students equitably.

InTeGrate materials help introduce students to earth and environmental issues relevant to community decision making and national policies. Materials explore environmental justice, community decision making, risk, coastal resilience planning, and communication barriers, and a selection of examples are included in Political Activities for Your Course. These are effective launch points for campus solution and advocacy-oriented projects. Project expertise can be integrated in multi-week efforts that investigate the local implications of policy change or Op-Eds, Blog, or Social Media assignments that give students an opportunity to learn from and communicate with new audiences. Also consider exploring opportunities to learn from or share with the community. Maps and toolkits include guidance for planning local decisions (e.g. climate resilience, environmental justice, hazard planning, stormwater management, coastal problem solving and more). These tools may or may not be familiar to city planners and environmental groups and our classes can be good places to use tools to create products of decision maker interest. Toolkits also illustrate the need for a co-planning process that values both community and scientific knowledge. Have your students conduct an issue awareness or attitudes survey before they begin campus research or as they explore local data in a large lecture class.