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Community and Political Engagement in the Geosciences

This suite of pages was developed by Sarah Fortner, Wittenberg University with contributions from Rob Baker, Wittenberg University

Community and political engagement in your earth or environmental science classes, research, or service builds our capacity to address major earth resilience issues (i.e. critical needs such as clean and abundant water, climate preparedness, mineral resources and hazard planning). Community and politically relevant earth and environmental science training prepares students with evidence-based and culturally-sensitive problem solving approaches. Through intentional design, our students might connect, their role, and geoscience knowledge to supporting community needs and positive social change. See the: AAC&U Civic Engagement VALUE Rubric. This civic engagement toolkit features advice for designing courses around earth challenges in your community that intersect socioeconomic issues of power, identity, race, and class. It describes opportunities for you and your students to engage in local earth issues. This includes joining or partnering with city leadership, community environmental groups, school boards, or social justice organizations to impact community choices or build political will for nationally-important issues. Similarly, as an earth scientist your role in supporting informed political conversation is powerful. Transform your invited lecture, seminar, or assigned web lecture, into an opportunity for your audience to reflect on their next steps.

  • Science in Support of Democracy: Tackling Local Earth Issues: Offers guidance to faculty or geoscience professionals considering civic engagement. Includes reflection on alignment of personal/professional goals with goals for democracy (i.e. informed public, local power, meeting community needs, justice) that guide engagement activities.
  • Designing Courses around Local Issues: Includes resources for designing civic engagement courses around geoscience issues important to your community and links to an example course, course design template, and reflection assignment tips. Think intentionally about how to include and empower underrepresented or marginalized voices. Explore strategies to get students involved in geoscience issues at the local level.
  • Develop Locally-Relevant Talking Points: Considers how evidence or consensus documents may be presented with local concerns in meetings with representatives.
  • Political Activities for Your Course: Features starting-place activities that help students explore policy and environmental justice issues. Activities explore the complexity of communication, decision making, and empowerment of underrepresented and marginalized constituents.
  • Strategies for Reaching New Audiences: Provides tips for writing Op-Eds, blogs, podcasts, and using social media to reach target audiences.
  • Evaluate Civic Engagement: Includes resources for civic engagement project evaluation, course evaluation, and program evaluation.
  • Political Talk is Important to Democracy: Essay reflects on the large number of independent voters and that necessitates political engagement. Includes resources to support respectful conversations in class that explore initial perspectives and move toward building informed opinions.
  • Student Reflection in Your Earth or Environmental Science Seminar. Turn your invited talk, seminar series, or web lectures into an opportunity for student reflection on career path or civic action.
  • Advocacy Events: Includes examples of advocacy events and as well as a template for planning events as part of your course or within your campus. Students learn how their actions directly support campus, local, and national political solutions on geoscience issues.

Community and political engagement are forms of service learning that directly builds earth literacy and civic agency for undergraduates (NAS, 2016; Syzmanski et al., 2012).

Get more ideas from the Serving Our Communities Blog »

References

  1. AAC&U, 2008, Essential Learning Outcomes
  2. American Geosciences Institute, Critical Needs for the Twenty-First Century: The Role of the Geosciences
  3. Baker, John R. Government in the Twilight Zone: Volunteers to Small-city Boards and Commissions. SUNY Press, 2015.
  4. EPA, 2014, Climate Adaptation Resources and Guidance
  5. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014, Fifth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change
  6. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017, Service-Learning in Undergraduate Geosciences: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24621.
  7. PEW Research Center, 2016, Millennials approach Baby Boomers as America's largest generation in the electorate
  8. Southern Poverty Law Center, 2017, Teaching Tolerance: Educating for a Diverse Democracy
  9. Syzmanki, D.W., Hadlock, C. and Zlotkowski, 2012, Using Public Sector Research Projects to Engage Undergraduates, CURQ, 19-26.

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