Molly Redmond: Using InTeGrate Materials in Biology 3144 (Ecology) at UNC Charlotte

About this Course

A required core class for biology majors

76 per section

2 x 75 minutes
Ecology Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 94kB Jun18 18)

Teaching the Carbon Cycle, Climate Change, and Feedback Loops in Introductory Ecology

I used material from the Carbon, Climate and Energy Resources Module and the Changing Biosphere Module, along with some inspiration from the Systems Thinking Module, in my intro Ecology class. This a required core class for Biology majors at UNCC and consists largely of juniors and seniors, but most students have little to no background in environmental science or ecology.

I taught two sections of this class, each section had 76 students and met twice a week for 75 minutes. I did the activities in both sections. Our classroom was designed for active learning, with 76 desks on wheels. These desks can face forward during the lecture portion of the class or be moved into groups for activities. This flexible arrangement works very well for my class, which is mix of traditional lecture, frequent clicker questions, and longer group activities. The room has five projectors, so students can see slides on all walls of the room. The one downside is that the room is so full of desks, it's challenging for me to move around the classroom and nearly impossible for the students to move around out of their desks. I modified the InTeGrate materials to suit the physical structure of the classroom and my relatively large (but not huge) classes.

Doing an activity where students had to think about the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide on different time scales left a much stronger impression about the human effects on climate than just showing an image of the Keeling Curve.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterials

I combined activities from several different modules to help students understand climate change, the carbon cycle, and feedback loops.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course

I've integrated material on climate change throughout the course, but we only have a few class periods at the end of the semester to explicitly focus on the carbon cycle and climate change. I had to be selective about the activities that were most relevant and didn't duplicate material covered earlier in the semester or in activities I'd already developed myself.


Due to time limitations and the size of my classes, I didn't use any of the assessments provided. We reviewed the material together in class and then I had each group submit a copy of the answers to their questions for a small amount of participation credit. I used clicker questions in these and subsequent lectures to review and test understanding of important points from this material. My exams also contained questions on the carbon cycle related to these units.


Overall, I found it somewhat challenging to find good InTeGrate modules to use in my class. Mostly this was due to time limitations in a broad survey class with a lot of topics to cover, especially as we were running out of time at the end of the semester, but there were also relatively few activities well suited for large classes. I liked the activities I chose because they were easy to do as stand alones, rather than part of an entire module, and were straight forward enough that they could be done with relatively little one-on-one input from me, just a full class summary discussion at the end and later review through clicker questions.

In course evaluations, many students commented that group activities were their favorite part of the class and especially highlighted the Modern CO2 Accumulation activity as one of the most effective activities. When asked about the most interesting thing they learned, many students mentioned their carbon footprints, climate change, feedback loops, and the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, so these activities left a strong impression. As I continue to revise this class, I hope to find the time to incorporate more InTeGrate modules.

Classroom Context