InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Cli-Fi: Climate Science in Literary Texts > Instructor Stories > Jennifer Sliko - Physical Geology
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Jennifer Sliko: Using Cli-Fi in Physical Geology at Penn State Harrisburg

About this course

An introductory level course primarily made up of civil engineering majors and a few petroleum engineering majors.
40
students
Two 55-minute lectures and one 3-hour lab
per week
Small, public 4-year university
, that is one of the 24 campuses that create The Pennsylvania State University, a large research university.

Physical Geology course syllabus (Microsoft Word 58kB Aug25 15)

Physical Geology is an introductory level course about Earth, with emphasis on its composition, structure, and dynamics. Students learn about rocks and minerals, the building blocks of the continents, oceanic basins, and about the processes that shape Earth, including climatic processes. Some of these processes are slow, such as the movements of continents, and change Earth over a period of millions of years. Others are rapid, such as earthquakes and floods. Students learn how these processes interact to create the landscapes we see on the surface of Earth.

Course goals and content:

Physical Geology is a co/prerequisite for a soils mechanics course and is a graduation requirement for the civil engineering program. Topics covered in this class include: the scientific method, earthquakes and Earth's interior, minerals, igneous rocks, volcanism, rivers and floods, metamorphic rocks, plate tectonics, sedimentary rocks, weathering, soils, the rock cycle, groundwater, contour maps, climate change, geologic time, and oceans and coasts.

A Success Story in Building Student Engagement

I used this module to teach a class of civil engineering students about climate change. This class has a lab component, so, in addition to using the materials during the "lecture" class meetings, I was able to utilize Units 3 and 5 as a lab activity.
Before the start of this module, some of my students did not agree with the concept of anthropogenic climate change. By the end of the module, those students had difficulty supporting their views based on the data graphed by the class.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials

I spent very little time covering graphing basics, as my students had previous experience creating and interpreting graphs in my class. I ended up spending extra time on concept maps, as my students had a very difficult time creating the concept maps—many students wanted to simply list out the interactions rather than complete the map. Due to the class schedule, the students completed Unit 4 before Unit 3, and the students completed Units 3 and 5 in the same 3-hour lab session.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course

I taught this module about in the last quarter of the 15-week semester as a means to teach my students about climate change. Before doing this module, the students had previously learned about plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, minerals and the three rock types, weathering, soils, groundwater, and rivers. Before starting Unit 1, the students read the textbook chapter about climate change and completed a reading quiz on the material.

Unit 1

  • Students worked on Unit 1 for both of the 55-minute lecture periods. While Part 1 was relatively easy for my students (they were already familiar with graph creation and interpretation), Part 2 (concept maps) was difficult for my students. At the end of the week, some students had to finish the concept map for homework. For the first part of week 2, the students worked on the concept maps as a group project.

Unit 2

  • Students completed the graphs as homework, and then discussed their graphs as a group during week 2. The students then completed the blogs as homework.

Unit 3

  • Unit 3 was completed after Unit 4, due to class schedule time constraints. Unit 3 was completed during the first part of the lab session. The students first grouped together based on which literary work they read, then switched and grouped with students who read different literary works. Not all students read the literary work for homework, which created some problems during the group discussions. I suggest having the students print out their literary work to bring to class while working on Unit 3.

Unit 4

  • Unit 4 was completed first as an individual activity and then as a group project during the lecture period during week 2. The biggest problem was that some students did not have a copy of the short story to reference for the rhetorical analysis.

**Many of my students did not see the value of completing Units 3 and 4 . I suggest emphasizing the importance of different forms of communication (in any field of study) when introducing these units.

Unit 5

  • Unit 5 was completed during the lab meeting, following the completion of Unit 3. This was the favorite unit of the class.

Assessments

The students completed each of the assessments as they are described in each unit. However, while completing this module, the students completed more homework than I typically give in class (the students were not used to doing the extra work). Also, many of my students did not value the readings in Units 3 and 4 and did not read them prior to coming to class. The next time I teach this module, I will most likely give a small "reading quiz" at the start of each class to encourage students to read before coming to class.

The summative assessment was given as a take-home assignment, and the students had two weeks (including Thanksgiving break) to complete the assignment. While some students did well on the summative assessment, others had clearly put in minimal effort the night before the assignment was due.

Outcomes

I wanted to use this module to teach my students about climate change. While my students did learn about climate change (based on exam scores), they also learned about climate change communication. Based on their performance in Unit 5, I think they understood when it is appropriate to use the different forms of communication covered in different situations. Also, at the end of the module, my students understood the difference between pathos, logos, and ethos, which was an unexpected, but welcome, outcome.

Classroom Context

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »