Engaging Geoscience Students in Community & Policy Activities

If the earth and environmental science education community doesn't engage our students in current issues in meaningful ways, who will? Especially important is providing a place for students to reflect on their own viewpoints and the viewpoints involved or missed in local or policy decision making. Below are some tips for getting started and example activities that help students reflect on the perspectives of people in their community and how to learn from and amplify them.

Getting Started:

  • Have students complete a PEW Political Party Quiz and read Rob Baker's essay Political Talk is Important to Democracy; compile and discuss class results: How do they compare with national results? Why are political discussions important? What voices are we hearing from? Who is not heard?
  • Identify current earth and environmental policy issues (i.e. climate, energy, hazards & water) using Congress.gov or on American Geosciences Institute Policy News Briefs
  • Explore earth and environmental evidence (e.g. trends from relevant figures) that relate to current policy and support small group discussions on issues. Discussion questions for small groups might explore the intersection of science, communication, community needs, resilience planning, marginalized populations, and reflection on how each student's world view shaped their group's collective ideas. Example questions: What factors need to be considered? Who are the impacted populations and will they all be affected equally? What evidence supports or refutes the policy? Are there any lobbyists (i.e. paid to advocate or oppose)?
  • Explore the views of your member of congress and schedule a district visit. See AGU's guide to a successful district visit and consider participating in the Geological Society of America's Congressional Visits Days

Activities and Design Resources that Help Students Explore Information, Community & Cultural Perspectives

Information Literacy:

Recognizing Diverse Perspectives (InTeGrate Activities for Undergraduate Courses):

Environmental Justice and Teaching Tolerance Resources:

Explore Current Issues in Earth and Environmental Science:

Other Resources:

Want to do more? Consider Designing Courses around Key Issues in Your Community.