Joan Ramage: Teaching Natural Hazards and Risks: Hurricanes in Introduction to Environmental Science at Lehigh University
About this Course
A large introductory environmental science course for majors and non-majors.
Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 81kB Mar4 14)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
The Hurricane Hazards module was used a two-week portion of a large introductory Earth and Environmental Sciences class (Introduction to Environmental Science), part of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at Lehigh University. Classes met twice per week and there was no required lab. The course was primarily taught by one of my colleagues, so I was a guest for the purposes of module testing. The module introduced more hands-on and interactive activities than was typical in this lecture format course. By the end of the module, students were increasingly interactive with each other and able to discuss the overall scenario.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate MaterialsI wanted to give the students some interactive experiences even though it was a large lecture format course, so I selected activities in which they would be doing something and have to respond back. I added some material (which is now incorporated into the module) to walk the students through some of the exercises, such as the hurricane tracker, and the Excel spreadsheet on ACE. We also incorporated more examples from Superstorm Sandy because it had recently occurred and directly affected many within our student population. Incorporating the different circumstances and responses to Hurricanes Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012) was a really interesting component of the module.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
The two weeks of this module were taught during the part of the course for hurricanes and right after a unit on climate and climate change. I used selected parts of the module because it was only two weeks (four class periods) and included no lab.
Students were assessed through quiz questions, concept diagrams, descriptions of land use changes, and a collaborative effort to choose roles and role-play what to do in an evacuation emergency in a local setting. Overall learning in the course was assessed with quizzes and tests. Module learning was assessed with a pre/post assessment, an attitudes assessment, homework, in-class assignments such as response diagrams related to the material, a panel discussion, and sketches of observations.
I hoped that students would recognize the important connections between ocean, the atmosphere, the land surface, and human systems. They are asked to explore past data sets and make their own observations in the process of learning about hurricanes. Throughout the module I observed students discussing how to make decisions about science and society based on data and their recent past experiences. It was great to see the students learning to grapple with data sets and how to make choices with limited information. Many students rose to the occasion in thinking about how hurricanes impact both communities and individuals.