Adriana Perez: Using Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources in Physical Geology at El Paso Community College
Provenance: Adriana Perez, El Paso Community College
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About this Course
An introductory course for majors.
One 90-minute lab
Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 305kB Jul2 14)
Students in Physical Geology study the principles and processes of physical geology with emphasis on Earth's materials, structures, landforms, and mineral resources. The course is recommended for all students majoring in science or engineering.
- Identify the composition and structure of the basic rock forming and ore minerals.
- Identify the basic igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. (SCANS: Allocating resources (materials)).
- Draw the rock cycle and explain the origins of the basic rock types.
- Understand the influence of weather on the formation of regolith, soils and the landscape.
- Identify the basic volcanic processes and their effects.
- Identify the basic tectonic processes and their effects.
- Identify the geologic hazards associated with the above physical processes.
- Describe how man has a significant effect on the environment.
- Study climatic change including global warming and ice ages.
- Identify past and possible future changes in climate and describe possible causes
This course introduces the concepts which provide a foundation for the study of geography, including the different elements of the natural environment as related to human activities and modes of living and map concepts
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
My course is an introductory geology course taken by students wishing to fulfill a science credit. Most of the students have a very weak science background. Hybrid classes are especially challenging since students will usually not work on background materials until after the lab session meets. We have to spend a significant amount of our lab session reviewing materials that were posted for that week.
Using the modules in the class allowed students to think about concepts rather than memorize terminology, figures or samples. It gave them (and me) the opportunity to explore these ideas and tap into their previous knowledge of science by taking a more practical approach to the information and data. Students were very engaged and enthusiastic about learning and contributed to the discussion and activities. They realized that they knew more than they thought and that they can grasp the concepts without memorizing information and actually understand the processes being discussed.
These types of activities were very well received by students. They were enthusiastic and eager to take part in the discussion. More importantly, they were able to make the connection between geology, the environment and environmental justice.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
Most of the module material was used as shown in order to test how well it would work at our institution with our student population. Most of the modification came when interactive technology was needed. In some classrooms the Internet and Google Earth were not available, so materials were posted as images. Overall the modules worked very well. Students were engaged and enthusiastic about the material presented. They were able to make crucial connections with the material presented and local examples and environmental issues. Students were very open to the experience and embraced the different learning approach to the subject and data.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
The semester is a 16-week class session. The class where I piloted the material is a hybrid class that meets once a week for a 90-minute lab and is presented with most class materials online. The class size is small (12 students). I covered the material toward the end of the semester (as I usually do) after students have learned about rocks, minerals, local geology, and major geologic structures and processes. Although the hydrologic cycle was not covered previously, the idea of environment and environmental justice and our impact and interaction with the planet is a major focus of my instruction throughout the semester.
The module was used in addition to class materials that followed a more traditional approach to teaching: notes, PowerPoint and lab activities. I used it in a hybrid environment so we had some flexibility with time and I was able to assign some of the materials (both traditional and module) online.
- Throughout the semester, students were asked to consider how the topics that were being discussed for the weekâ€”such as natural resources, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.â€”had a direct impact (if any) in their lives. How does it affect you? Why should you care? What evidence do you see?
- As we started working with the modules, students were already prepared to approach the subject from the environmental impact focus.
- I started by writing the words environment and justice on the board (separately) and asked the class to reflect on them and then we tried to define these two words. Once we felt we had a working definition, I put these two words together and asked them to reflect again. This was more challenging for students.
- I showed students the PowerPoint, stopping where discussion was needed or when questions were asked.
- I found that students were very enthusiastic, willing and wanting to participate.
- Implementation of this unit took about 30 minutes, a little longer than anticipated, but it was well worth the time to see the students engaged and interested in the topic.
- Since my class was small, I decided to not require them to do the minute paper and I graded students on their participation.
- I used this unit in conjunction with Unit 1 of the module.
- Students had been given the Water Footprint handout in advance (online) to complete before coming to class. Before we compared the results of this activity, we discussed what we thought the results would be.
Since this was a small class, I tallied the results on the board for everyone to see. If it is a larger class, this can be done ahead of time by having the assignment due in advance. As a class, we had another discussion to explain why the results were so different for everyone.
- I asked them to think about where our water came from; not everyone knew the answer.
- We continued to discuss this as a class, and I then showed them a link to the local utilities website that contains some of this information and statistics: EPWU
- We started to discuss "the bigger picture." Where else does water from?
- As they started to answer this question, I started to draw the hydrologic cycle on the board.
- I also included a review of vocabulary from the material: VOCABULARY
- Before covering Unit 3, I assigned and discussed basic concepts of topography normally covered in our labs. Example: TOPO MAPS ACTIVITY
- During the topography activities, I tried to relate the hydrologic and flow concepts based on our own local topography so they could better grasp the concept from previous knowledge of the subject.
- The article (USGS) was assigned as homework (online).
- Our class was not able to do the Google Earth activity due to technical/Internet limitations.
Units 4 and 5 were not covered due to lack of time.
- This unit was used in conjunction with class materials in which basic concepts of groundwater (capture, flow, and use) are covered.
- Because of technical/Internet limitations in our campus and classroom, I prepared handouts of specific USGS queries to work with: WELL DATA (Acrobat (PDF) 947kB Jul10 14)
- I like to use local data when available; if the activity can be done live, students can pick wells close to where they live.
- Students were interested and enthusiastic and were surprised that this data was available to the public.
Most of the assessments that I used in class were meant to start discussions, first within the groups and then as a class and hopefully after the class as members of a larger community.
My overall goal in my class and throughout these modules has always been for students to see "the bigger picture." I hope that they are able to understand the interactions of humans and their environment (positive and negative) and to realize that we have a direct impact on our planet. I want them to realize that we depend on this planet for our survival and that we can also be the cause of so many of the challenges that our environment is facing. These issues can be different from community to community as can be the approach that we all take in resolving them.
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