Michael Phillips: Using Mapping the Environment with Sensory Perception in Environmental Geology at Illinois Valley Community College
About this course
An introductory general education course.
Syllabus (Microsoft Word 83kB Jun15 15)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
I used this module to engage my environmental geology students and to get them to think about how contaminants move through the environment. Students can have difficulty understanding how contaminants move through the environment, and this is especially true with groundwater. This module allowed students to trace odors and sounds; neither are visible, but both are relatively easy to detect. The students got to go outside!!! And, they developed an understanding of the planning necessary to collect quality data.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
I was able to use the module essentially as presented; the sections flowed logically and helped build understanding of how contaminants move and how they impact people.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
This module was used as three weeks of a sixteen-week course. The course begins with an overview of the basics of geology (minerals, rocks, and plate tectonics) and then moves on to in-depth explorations of natural hazards, natural resources, and human-induced hazards. This module was the primary component of the human-induced hazards section. The module requires students to design and carry out a field study; it has them examine how scents and sounds move through the environment and consider the impacts the detected scents and sounds have on the people who live there. One of the strengths is that no special equipment is needed; students learn to calibrate their "instruments," develop reproducible collection techniques that produce comparable data sets, and display their collected data in a meaningful way.
- Lead students to develop a broad appreciation for what qualifies as data and for the relationships between qualitative and quantitative data, beginning with the first module.
- While the units can stand alone, using them in the recommended sequence helps students develop a better understanding of what sensory data is, how best to collect it, and how best to display the results.
- Students' ability to collect sensory data can vary greatly; this should be recognized and addressed by students as they proceed through the units.
- Students need to describe collected sensory data as precisely as possible to avoid confusion; overly broad descriptions should be questioned.
Moving around in the classroom as students work in small groups is very important; students can move off-topic or can misinterpret instructions. Most of the students enjoyed completing the three reflection papers, and they are relatively easy to read and grade. The primary problem was that some students were too brief; when the assignment is made, students need to be told that a good reflection has some depth and should be at least a page. For the final assessment, I had students work in groups, which enhanced the discussion between group members and produced some very nice maps. As the groups develop their final product, it is important to monitor their progress and use questions to help them produce better maps.
In helping to develop this module, I wanted students to experience the movement of contaminants through the natural environment and to consider how best to communicate that experience to others. Contaminants often move through the environment invisibly, and reports describing their movement can be difficult for students to understand. This module worked well because students collected their own data, discussed the collected data with others, evaluated a wide variety of data sets expressed in different ways for different purposes, and then used their experiences to produce maps that were easy to understand.