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This page first made public: Oct 28, 2016
This course will explore a variety of sustainable technologies with emphasis on understanding the fundamental scientific properties underlying each. Students will also examine appropriate applications of the technologies and evaluate their use with environmental and economic considerations.
The goal of this course is to teach basic geosciences principles through an exploration of environmentally sustainable technologies. The course consists of eleven modules, each of which can be used independently of the others. The course is designed to be open to all undergraduate students on a college campus and its interdisciplinary approach is served by a diverse enrollment. Students will explore how each technology works, its importance in addressing one or more grand challenges in the geosciences, and the social and economic implications associated with that technology and competing approaches.Pedagogy will stress hands-on experimentation and learner-centered approaches. The design will minimize the role of lecturing and promote a variety of active learning approaches in a flipped classroom setting.
Strengths of the Course
This course provides students with a unique approach to learning general scientific and geoscientific principles as they discover how green technologies work, and understand those technologies in the context of real-world problems. Students will use readings, hands-on experimentation, data they collect from their experiments, and authentic and credible geoscience data synergistically to explore and understand the application of technologies that promote sustainability. The modules teach the material with a systems-thinking approach that illustrates how each technology fits into the larger picture of building a sustainable world. Student work with data collection, analysis, and report writing teaches geoscientific habits of mind.
In addition to the unique and compelling content, a second major strength of this course is derived from a design built around the flipped classroom concept. While the course could be used in a traditional setting, it is built to take advantage of contemporary pedagogy that emphasizes the learner-centered approach. Student materials are tailored to allow the acquisition of the majority of the content outside of the classroom. The classroom and hands-on laboratory time is reserved for a diverse set of activities that put the student at the center of the action.
This course is designed for undergraduate students of diverse backgrounds and academic levels. Students should have a good foundation in basic high school level science and basic mathematics. Students will benefit from prior exposure to working with Excel spreadsheets and graphing. The various modules in the course can be used as stand-alone sections in other courses such as environmental science, sustainability, applied geology, general geosciences, and ecology.
1) Students will apply the geoscience principles underlying, and social implications of, implementing new technologies to address issues of energy and resource scarcity and environmental sustainability.
2) Students will use both data they collect themselves and data collected and published by others to test the efficacy of various green technologies.
3) Students will apply their knowledge to develop sustainable energy and resource conservation strategies as individuals and as a society.
4) Students will use learner-centered techniques to organize geoscience and social science data, to analyze and present case studies relevant to the adoption of green technologies.
5) Students will learn how to develop meaningful questions about energy, resources, society, and sustainability that address higher levels of cognition.
Supported Earth Science Literacy Principles:
- Big Idea 1: Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
Supported Essential Principles of Climate Science:
2. Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.
4. Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
5. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and human-made processes.
6. Human activities are impacting the climate system.
7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.
- Recognizing the signal within the natural variability
- Quantifying consequences, impacts, and effects
- Effectively communicating uncertainty and relative risk
- Determine how to anticipate, avoid, and manage disruptive global environmental change.
- Determine institutional, economic, and behavioral changes to enable effective steps toward global sustainability.
- Encourage innovation (and mechanisms for evaluation) in technological, policy, and social responses to achieve global sustainability.
Table of Contents
- Instructor Materials: Overview of the Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability Course
Module 1Electricity, Work, and Power Using Wind to Do Work Module2 Thermal Energy from Light Module3 Creating Electricity from Light Module4 Passive Designs Module5 Energy from and to Earth Module6 Better Ways to Illuminate Module7 Efficiency and Conservation Module8 Hybrid and Electric Cars Module9 Energy from Biofuels Module10 Composting Toilets Module11 Capstone ProjectPlanning a Sustainable Community
- Student Materials
- Instructor Stories
- Join the Community
- Cuker B., Chambers R., Crawford M. (2019) Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability. In: Gosselin D., Egger A., Taber J. (eds) Interdisciplinary Teaching About Earth and the Environment for a Sustainable Future. AESS Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and Sciences Series. Springer, Cham