InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Interactions between Water, Earth’s Surface, and Human Activity > Instructor Stories > Julie Monet
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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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Julie Monet: Using Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface & Human Activity in Concepts in Earth & Space Science

About this Course

A 300-level geology course for pre-service teachers.


One 50-minute lecture
Two 2-hour labs
four-year state university

Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 113kB Jul6 14)

This course introduces fundamental concepts and geological processes through guided inquiry, small group collaboration, class discourse and self reflection. An emphasis is placed on the relevancy of Earth science to students' everyday lives. Students apply their knowledge and understanding of geologic concepts and processes to research, design, and teach a mini-lesson on an Earth science topic relevant to the state in which they live.

Course Goals:

  • To provide an environment that promotes inquiry, critical thinking and student ownership in their learning.
  • To develop conceptual knowledge and understanding of fundamental concepts and processes in Earth science that provide a strong foundation for teaching and promoting the relevancy of Earth science in our everyday lives.
  • To foster student interest and value in teaching Earth science.

Course Content

This course is populated primarily by students preparing to be elementary school teachers. On average, there are 165 students who enroll in this course per year. This course fulfills one out of five required science content courses in the Liberal Studies program. A smaller population of students in the BA in Natural Sciences, and the BS in Geoscience program with a focus on secondary teaching take this course as an elective.

Content taught in this course falls under four main categories: Earth Materials, Earth's Deformation & Internal Processes, Near-surface and Surface Processes, and Motions of the Earth-Sun and Moon System. Topics taught cover a diverse range of subject matter relevant and connect to students' future teaching practices.

A Success Story in Building Student Engagement

This module was taught in an upper-level Earth science course for students preparing to be elementary school teachers. Over the last four years years of teaching this course, I have continually revised the curriculum to promote a greater emphasis on the relevancy of Earth science in students' everyday experiences. A key component in this effort has been a stronger connection to examples and applications of Earth science concepts and processes in the city, county and state where students live. While teaching the module about the interactions between the hydrologic cycle, fluvial processes and human activity, I found multiple opportunities to connect the topic under investigation to examples in the local geologic landscape. My success story in teaching this module is highlighted by a noticeable shift in how students think about water. There was a significant change from the conceptualization of water as a stand-alone process to one that was reflective of a systems approach to thinking about water. I also felt that the integration of societal issues successfully prompted students to be more cognizant of the interconnectedness of water across all Earth systems.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials

Teaching with InTeGrate materials was a learning experience for me as well as my students. Typically I teach this course with a focus on science concepts, pedagogical strategies for teaching Earth science concepts, and a metacognitive component to encourage reflective practice. This is the first time I have integrated societal issues within the structure of the curriculum. I found that the connection of societal issues embedded throughout the module fostered critical thinking, and provided me with talking points for group questions and class discussion. I found the benefit of situating social issues in the local landscape gave even more relevancy to students' everyday experiences. I noticed more questions relative to water issues than in previous semesters when I did not use the InTeGrate module. Where was the source for their drinking water? How they could find out if they lived in a flood zone? What could they do as citizens to sustain the quality of the creek that runs directly through campus? These questions from students signaled to me that they were reflecting on what they were learning and applying it outside the classroom.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course

Students began the Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity module slightly more than halfway through the semester. Previous to the implementation of the InTeGrate materials, students had completed two major unit sections: one on Earth Materials, and one on Earth's Deformation and Internal Processes. The Integrate materials began the third unit section on Near-surface and Surface processes and highlighted the interactions between the rock cycle and the hydrologic cycle. The overall goal was for students see the interactions between Earth systems and processes, with the consideration of how a change in one system might affect another.

When introducing each unit section and the sub-units within each section, I typically pose a question to students on how the topic under investigation is connected to the previous unit. At the end of the unit section, I revisit the overarching question. For example, at the beginning of unit two I asked students to consider how the rock cycle is connected to plate tectonics. At the start of unit 3 (the InTeGrate module) I asked how the hydrologic cycle interacts with the rock cycle and the rock cycle with plate tectonics.

The InTeGrate module Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity is especially relevant for students in my course who are preparing to be future teachers because it is well aligned with the disciplinary core and crosscutting ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

During the implementation of the module in the pilot study phase, each team member kept a teaching journal. The format of the journal is in response to journal prompts asked by the InTeGrate team. You can view each journal by downloading a pdf.

Note: Responses to the journal questions are in reference to the implementation of the module during the pilot study. The final version of the student handout has been modified based on these findings.

Unit 1

I implemented the entire lesson as written. The pre-module reading is highly recommended especially for students who have not had an introduction to the two primary components: the geosphere and the biosphere.

the biosphere.primary components of the each of the Earth s

  • After watching the movie Blue Planet, students had lots of questions about how they could use less water and really make a difference. I would suggest putting together a list of websites and local resources that students could use to learn more about water resources in the area where they live.
  • I would suggest doing some research on large consumers of water in the region where your college is located. In northern California where CSU, Chico is located, agriculture is one of the greatest consumers of water. Generating a focus on the local area, I found students asked the most questions about:
    • How could the farming industry use less water?
    • What could students do to use less water?
    • How could they find out about the quality of the water they drink?

Unit 2

I implemented the lesson as written. I added additional materials (see below) and an extension after the lesson to include a short walk to the local creek to observe fluvial processes.

  • In addition to the smaller stream trays, I used a large class-sized stream table where I was able to show features and processes that students could not see in the small stream trays. The key feature of the large stream table model was the ability to create meanders, which helped students to grasp the concept of erosion and deposition.
  • To make the activity more relevant to students' everyday experience, I followed this lab with a walk outside to take a look at Big Chico Creek (we are lucky to have this running through the middle of campus). If you have access to a park or creek near the location of where you teach, I would recommend taking students there to observe the fluvial processes firsthand.

Unit 3

I completed all parts of Activity 3. Because the lab was longer than expected, we needed to complete the activity over two lab periods.

  • Students seemed most engaged with the activity once they felt comfortable with using Google Earth. They were amazed at the amount of detail you can see. Most of the students had never used Google Earth before. It was great to see them so interested.
  • I would suggest stretching the activity over two labs and start first by introduce the basics on how to use Google Earth and letting students familiarize themselves with the tools they would be using to complete the lab.
  • I also recommend putting together a short overview of each tool we would be using in Google Earth and where to find them.

Unit 4

I fully implemented the lesson as written.

  • Students were actively engaged in discussion throughout the activity.
  • Students learned new concepts by continuing to build on ideas and fundamental concepts developed in the previous section.
  • The design of the activity prompted student collaboration and critical thinking especially noted during Part 2, when they were challenged to interpret four graphs of Cedar Falls to their peers.
  • For the homework I selected a specific region of the state to research and provided them with a list of websites to start their investigation.
  • I found that identifying a local region made learning more relevant to their lives, considering many of the students had grown up in northern California and/or know friends and relatives that live in this region.

Unit 5

I did not fully implement this unit. My students had not completed a section on plate tectonics or isostasy. Instead, I had the students read the article and we discussed key points in class.


Note: Assessment and scoring rubrics for each unit are located on the specific unit page.

I used all of the assessments provided in the module and then included some questions about the unit on a subsequent exam. When I assigned the flood brochure at the end of Unit 3, it was helpful to students if I gave them a list of websites to get started with researching local floods. After several iterations of this project, I found students were more apt to spend quality time investigating the history of local floods if I assigned the project as extended homework. I also spent a few minutes at the end of class having students share any anecdotal evidence they had collected from family or friends who had firsthand experience. A surprisingly large percentage of students shared stories and personal experiences which provided an added relevancy to the topic.


Piloting the curriculum and comparing findings among all three module developers provided the opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the module. Overall the InTeGrate materials worked to help students meet the learning goals identified for this module.

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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 »