InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Critical Zone Science > Instructor Stories > Adam Hoffman
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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 materials are free 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.
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Adam Hoffman: Using in Introduction to the Critical Zone Sciences at University of Dubuque


About this Course

An elective class for science majors.

Less than 10
students

I've taught this course in two different formats, a traditional face-to-face class consisting of

three 50 minute lecture sessions
and
one 3-hour lab per week
, and as an
online summer class.

Intro to the Critical Zone Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 147kB Jun21 16)

This interdisciplinary course introduces and examines the Critical Zone (CZ), Earth's permeable layer that extends from the tops of vegetation to the bottom of the groundwater zone. Focusing on the large quantity of interdisciplinary data available from the existing NSF-funded CZ Observatories and utilizes readings, fieldtrips, and cutting-edge learning activities this course will examine geoscience-related grand challenges facing society (eutrophication, erosion, environmental stability, climate change, water and food production, radiative forcing, water and carbon cycling). At the end of the course students will be able to use a large variety of science principles to analyze how Earth's land surface works and describe the CZ as a complex system of interacting regolith, water, air, and life.
1. Characterize the relationship between the Critical Zone, atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and soil.
2. Summarize the effects of anthropogenic activities on local to global Critical Zone processes.
3. Demonstrate ability to analyze ethical issues related to CZ science.
4. Determine the distribution of chemical species in CZO environments.
5. Perform common air, water, and soil CZO laboratory and field procedures.
6. Analyze how water, carbon, nutrient and energy flow through the Critical Zone and impact long-term sustainability of water and soil resources.

A Success Story in Building Student Engagement

I have had success teaching the entire Introduction to Critical Zone Sciences course in a variety of contexts. I first taught the course in a traditional face-to-face format over the course of a semester. The students were very excited and enjoyed the variety of disciplines covered in the course and the real-world data that were assigned to interact with. The second time I taught the course I taught it as an online summer class and again the feedback was positive regarding the data analysis activities.

I was especially excited that the students found the material they learned in the course has helped them develop a deeper understanding of earth processes, allowing them to conceive novel ideas that could help society overcome environmental problems.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials

For each of my iterations I had to make some modifications. For the face-to-face course I had a lab component that gave me the ability to use some of the supplemental information provided in the course materials. While teaching the online course I had to make minor modifications to some of the worksheets and handouts to reflect that they would not be presenting it in class or discussing in class the material. I moved those presentations and discussions to online forums on our course management system.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course

I utilized the entire course over a 15-week semester and an 8-week summer time period.



I utilized these units in nearly the exact form as they are published. For my online-only class I added a chat forum so the students could still interact in a manner similar to those in class. Depending on class size I often modified group assignments. When taught face-to-face my class also had a lab associated with it so I utilized some of the optional activities and computer assignments during the lab times.

Unit 1 - Did not do the Stella II modeling activities

Unit 2 - No modifications

Unit 3 - Did advanced activities in class

Unit 4 - I did not utilized the SimWater activity

Unit 5 - Showed the class a 5 factors of soil formation video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTzslvAD1Es

Unit 6 - Did not do the optional capstone activity

Unit 7 - I did not use the Dirt reading in my face-to-face class, but did use it in my online version of the class

Assessments

The formative assessment pieces were mainly in the form of worksheets and class discussions and both were well-received. The students thought the final assessment was a lot of work, but most found it worth the effort in the end. We have since revamped the final summative assessment assignment to better match the course goals/learning objectives and to give the students a more relevant, educational, and enjoyable experience.

Outcomes

I was hoping to introduce my students to the important and complex relationship between the Critical Zone - atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and soil. Through this introduction to the interdisciplinary field of study I hoped to help my students improve their geoscience and systems thinking. Judging from feedback from the students and continued interaction with them I am very confident that these goals were met.

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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 »