Laura Rademacher: Environmental Science for Informed Citizens at University of the Pacific

About this Course

An introductory, general education course for non-majors and majors.
Two 105 minutes lectures and one 2-hour lab per week

ES Syllabus Fall 2016 (Acrobat (PDF) 144kB Sep18 17)

My course is an introductory environmental science course, which began as a traditional lecture and lab class. Over time, I've incorporated more opportunities for active learning in the classroom. The additional time spent engaging more deeply with topics has come at the expense of breadth, however, students respond favorably to spending additional time on the topics they find most compelling. The incorporation of integrate modules has provided new opportunities for active learning in the classroom. Most of the modules lead students through case studies, many of which are focused on regions outside of California. As most of my students are from California, the modules have been particularly compelling as they broaden my students' perspectives on these issues.

The modules emphasize systems and interdisciplinary thinking, which are hallmarks of the geosciences. These materials provide numerous opportunities to engage with issues from these perspectives.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials

I integrated 3 modules (18 units) into my course, which constituted a significant fraction of our class time. The primary way in which I modified these modules and units was by supplementing with additional context and materials to link the modules together.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course

My course is 15 weeks (30 lecture periods), and the modules were incorporated in the middle of the term. Prior to module implementation, I covered topics including where knowledge comes from, systems, plate tectonics, and human populations. I then included the "A Growing Concern" module, followed by the "Environmental justice and freshwater resources" module. I then included my own materials on energy, followed by the "Climate of Change" module. I wrapped up my course with an investigation of how might we move forward with our planet. Systems and interdisciplinary connections were common themes throughout the course, both through the InTeGrate materials and my own.


I used almost all of the multiple choice and most of the open response-type assessment questions on exams. Student received these reasonably well, as that was already the format of the exams. Students struggled more when they were asked to draw or explain a concept, and more practice in the spirit of the assessments should be provided to mitigate that difference. The different stakes between exams and homework/lab assignments may lead to lower performance on homework and lab assignments. Additionally, anything assigned as homework will automatically miss students who are not in class on a given day.


I envisioned students would gain a deeper understanding of the concepts covered through the expansion of active learning techniques. Because the InTeGrate modules may take more time than other activities and because the unit focus areas are different than the focus areas in my "pre-InTeGrate" course, I think in some cases students learned different materials, rather than deeper learning. My second goal was that I hoped students would take away enthusiasm for the subject matter. I do think that the incorporation of environmental justice and deeper case studies tied to places of interest piqued student interest in the topics.

Classroom Context