Initial Publication Date: August 9, 2017

Michelle A. Fisher: Using Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity in Biology for Majors at Three Rivers College

About this Course

Four 50-minute lectures, one 2-hour lab per week.

Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 848kB Aug9 17)

Over a 6-week period, I incorporated the "Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity" module into the ecology section of my Biology for Majors course to allow students to assess the interdependence between the abiotic and biotic world. Through use of the module, the study of geosciences was connected to the study of ecology and to the grand challenge of river flooding that occurs in our region. Data bases were integrated to enhance quantitative activities to improve student understanding of nature in addressing real-life economic, societal, and political issues. The module allowed students to construct their own understanding of the behavior of rivers through the use of stream tables and real streamflow data, engage in a data-rich activity, and analyze streamflow and precipitation data. The module was adapted to include appreciative inquiry to learn of stories of experiences of impacted stakeholders and to apply their knowledge to empower students to take on leadership positions within their local community as the community rebuilds in response to record flooding that occurred as the module was being incorporated.

As the "Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity" module was incorporated into my Biology for Majors class, students developed a deeper awareness of discovering they are a part of their communities and felt more empowered to find and share their voice as our communities rebuild after record flooding occurred in our area coincidentally during the time the module was being implemented.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterials

Record flooding occurred in our area during the implementation of the module. Because many of my students were affected by the flooding, I had considered not completing the module. Because of the display of the community pulling together in solidarity, however, I then focused on my goal of the project: to build scientifically knowledgeable students that could use appreciative inquiry in their communities to serve as leaders in facing grand challenges. The final reflective aspect that I added allowed students to put pieces together, connecting scientific knowledge to serving as agents of change, and to develop habits of mind that will prepare them to make informed judgments in personal, professional, and civic life. Class cancellations presented the challenge of being able to complete the module prior to the end of the semester, so explanation of materials was modified to be taught on Blackboard.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course

The Biology for Majors course is a 5 credit course offered during the Spring semester. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:00 AM – 10:45 AM (four 50-minute lectures, one 2-hour lab per week). The module was incorporated into the ecology section of the Biology for Majors course over a 6-week period at the end of the semester. Because the group projects and case studies relate to real world problems, students may take BIOL 190: Biology for Majors to satisfy credit for the Valuing General Education course requirement, the module materials were referenced at the beginning of the course and within the syllabus to allow students to know that the module included materials that would count toward the course ecology project.


In Unit 4, students examined hydrologic data from a river in our area and identified ways in which precipitation and stream discharge influence flooding and the impacts of flooding on nearby human societies. The final product of the unit was the production of a brochure, which required students to summarize the hazards associated with the flooding of a local river. Here, students described historic flooding and assessed ways the local community could mitigate the risks associated with the flooding. Because my students experienced flooding, the creation of the brochure allowed students to develop a scientific understanding of what was occurring as they utilized data sets as tools to better understand real-world problems, allowing students to be able to explain to their families and friends the nature of flooding. Through their final reflections, students expressed an appreciation for being able to apply their learning within the classroom as it relates to real world challenges.


Through the use of data bases, the module allowed students to connect the geosciences to the study of ecology and to the grand challenge of river flooding that occurs in our region, meeting my goal of improving student understanding of nature in addressing real-life economic, societal, and political issues. From the reflective piece, I discovered the deep connection students have to the Ozarks region of Southeast Missouri. Many expressed their love for the outdoors of the region, and despite the setback caused by flooding, there seems to be a deeper sense of responsibility to rebuilding the communities as students find their voice to utilize their scientific knowledge to offer innovative ideas for rebuilding the area.