Benjamin Cuker: Using Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability at Hampton University
About this course
A course for majors in marine and environmental science, architecture, and biological sciences.
Syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 49kB Jul30 15)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
The course was taken by majors in marine and environmental science, atmospheric science, biological sciences, and architecture. It was interesting to see the students from different majors bring their own perspectives.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
Since I was a member of the team that created the modules, they were already tailored to my teaching situation. Our university is located directly on a large body of water, so I was able to teach some of the basic principles of wind energy by taking students sailing. We tested different-sized sails to illustrate the relationship between lift and surface area as well as lift and velocity.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to My Course
The modules were structured to provide almost all of the content for the entire semester-long course. The only course activity that does not appear in the module is the visit to my solarized house where the students got to see in actual application the various things they learned about during the semester. The house uses photovoltaics, solar hot water, solar space heating, solar powered ventilation, insulation, and passive design to reduce heat loads. The visit was the last activity prior to the capstone exercise, so the students could bring together much of what they had learned using an actual application for understanding.
The rest of the course is built around the modules in the exact sequence as provided. Each module is comprehensive with a full introduction. Note that we added the first module to introduce the basic concepts of energy and electricity needed to better comprehend the subsequent material in the class. Prior to each class the students were required to read the modules and produce questions for quizzes and class discussion. That preparation by the students minimized the need for lecturing and freed-up time to focus on the learner-centered pedagogies.
Since several of the modules use sunlight as an energy source, they are best on fairly sunny days. As such, on occasion I had to switch the planned activity from one that required sunlight to another that did not. For instance, the activity on electricity from the sun might be switched with the activity on insulation. It means that the classroom portion of the day's activities might not match the hands-on activity that day. However, the students do not seem to mind, and it teaches a basic geoscience principle about the vagaries of solar illumination.
I used several types of assessments. Each class starts with with a quiz that is written by the students. Each module includes a hands-on activity that requires students to generate data by experiment and measurement and to utilize published data. The students write up formal lab reports using a guide. These are assessed with a rubric. The capstone activity that requires the students to integrate the various technologies in a design project is also assessed with a rubric. The students seemed happy with the ways they were assessed and appreciated being part of the process of creating questions.
My vision was that students would learn underlying geoscience and basic scientific principles through the discovery process as related to sustainable technologies. My goal was for them to master those concepts and to apply them so as to understand the attendant social and economic aspects involved with implementing sustainable technologies. This also provided a platform to develop essential skills; how to develop good questions, how to construct and analyze meaningful experiments, how to produce an impactful presentation, and how to apply their knowledge to solving real problems. The students demonstrated the acquisition of new knowledge (pre- and post-testing), and progressively developed the skills needed to apply that knowledge as indicated by the quality of their formal reports and the capstone activity. The level of discussion also advanced during the course indicating that the students were internalizing their experience.