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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Instructor Materials: Overview of the Mapping the Environment with Sensory Perception Module

Module Goal: The overarching goal of the module is for students to develop more expert views on the nature of science, systems thinking, and more expert scientific habits of mind by collecting and analyzing sensory data, comparing it with geoscientific data, and using appropriate data to characterize the environmental impact of a selected site (or sites) in a community that is a part of a larger system.

Summative Assessment: The summative assessment for this module consists of three assignments. The first is a one-page reflection paper on a sensory log and data assigned near the beginning of the module and is intended to assess students' evolving views on their understanding of the different types of data and their ability to collect and record sensory data. The second is a two-page reflection paper on a case study analysis assigned near the mid-point of the module to further assess students' understanding of different types of data and the implications of their use in environmental characterization. The final assessment is a map and short paper describing the authors' justification for data selection and map design assigned at the conclusion of the module to assess students' ability to collect and analyze sensory data and use it to characterize a selected site or sites in a community. Learn more about assessing student learning in this module.

Unit 1 Data Set Analysis

  • Goals:
    • Define the difference between qualitative and quantitative data.
    • Evaluate data types used to communicate an environmental issue.
    • Evaluate the implications of different data types used in environmental problem communication.
  • Introduction to Data (in-class activity, 10–15 min): Class brainstorms examples of data which are written on the board by the instructor who uses the examples to begin a discussion of data characterization.
  • Data Set Analysis (in-class activity, 40–50 min): Students in groups of two to five will be given sets of different types of data (including tables, maps, and written) and will consider their initial response to each set, classify each set as qualitative or quantitative, and analyze and discuss scenarios in which each set would be most appropriate to use. The groups will report out to the class, which will develop a consensus of classification and appropriate use. The instructor will summarize the group results on the board/screen at the front of the room and facilitate further input/clarification as necessary. The end result should be concise, consensus descriptions that differentiate qualitative and quantitative data and include ideas about the appropriate use of different types of data.
  • Reflection (in-class, formative assessment, 5 min): The instructor will ask students to write down insights gained from the activity and discussion. Several students may be asked to share their responses. All responses are collected by the instructor for review.

Unit 2 Sensory Log and Holistic Reflection

  • Goals:
    • Collect and record qualitative and quantitative sensory data as part of an environmental study.
    • Examine the difference between qualitative and quantitative data.
    • Evaluate the implications of terminology used in data communication.
    • Consider the relationship of sensory data collected to their environment.
  • Sensory log (homework): The instructor will ask students to maintain a log of immediate sensory experiences recorded once each hour for any ten-hour period prior to the next class session. Students will bring the log to the next class session and report to their peers.
  • In-class reflection (in-class activity, formative assessment): The instructor will remind students of the previously developed differentiation between qualitative and quantitative data. Students will exchange their sensory logs with a classmate and write a reflection on the log with respect to a set of prompts provided by the instructor. The students return the logs and reflections and read and consider the responses to their own log.
  • Students will be put into small groups (four to six students) to discuss their sensory logs, discuss the impact the data descriptors used might have on a reader of the log they kept, and develop a consensus on two to four key findings about data collection and reporting based on their experience with the sensory log. The groups will pair together and develop a shared consensus of results. Each combined group will then report their findings to the class, and the instructor will summarize the findings on the board/screen at the front of the room and facilitate input and clarification as necessary.
  • Holistic reflection paper (homework, summative assessment): The instructor will ask students to write a one-page holistic reflection of their logged experiences. In that document, they will analyze the distinctions between qualitative and quantitative data as well as the impact their descriptions had on their peers. This is a graded assignment that will be turned in the next class session.

Unit 3 Sensory Data Collection

  • Goals:
    • Create sensory data collection protocol that facilitates consistent collection of sensory data.
    • Collect and record sensory data as part of an environmental study.

Note: This module is to be conducted by groups and includes fieldwork. Each group should have four to six students and may be assigned by the instructor or self-selected by the students. It is important that the students within the group are comfortable with each other and are able to coordinate their schedules in order to complete the field work within a short (one-week) time period.

  • Sensory Data Collection Protocol Development (in-class activity and homework, formative assessment): The instructor will begin the class by reviewing the prior discussion from the Sensory Log exercise; specifically, the summary findings presented at the conclusion of the exercise. Student groups will then be asked to develop draft protocols, exchange them with another group for critique, and then revise the protocols. Each group will then instruct a partner group in the use of the developed protocol so that the partner group can "beta test" the protocol prior to the next class session. As the groups work, the instructor will circulate through the class, review the protocols as they are being developed and direct students by asking questions and making suggestions. Between class sessions, each group will use the protocols they have received to collect sensory data and will develop a critique to share at the next class session. At the next class session, groups will share critiques, finalize their data collection protocol, and share their final work with the entire class. The instructor will facilitate the class discussion by summarizing the work on the board/screen at the front of the room and facilitating input and clarification as necessary.
  • Fieldwork Planning and Investigation (in-class activity and fieldwork, formative assessment): The instructor will begin by leading a short discussion on the purpose and importance of scientific collection of field data. Student groups will develop guiding questions and predictions for their research. The class will then develop, through a brainstorming session and with the assistance of the instructor, a set of minimum requirements for a field investigation plan. Student groups will work in class to plan field collection of sensory data using previously developed protocols. The plans will be presented to the class as part of a gallery walk activity after which each group will have an opportunity to revise its plans. The groups will submit a copy of their plans to the instructor and will conduct the fieldwork per their plan (typically within one to two weeks).

Unit 4 Case Study Analysis

  • Goals:
    • Compare and contrast different conceptual approaches (sensory and geoscientific) to mapping environmental issues.

      Identify different data types used to understand an environmental issue and evaluate the implications of different data uses in environmental problem-solving.
  • Case Study Analysis, Expert Groups (in-class activity): Students within expert groups read and analyze different data sets from the same case. Each expert group discusses its data sets, characterizes the data based on experiences from previous units in this module, and prepares a synopsis that each group will share with the class.
  • Case Study Analysis, Group Presentations and Class Discussion (in-class activity, formative assessment): Members of the expert groups share the data and the synopsis developed in their expert group with the class. The class discusses the impact of different types of data on different audiences and develops a consensus on the types of data best suited for presentation to specific audiences.
  • Case Study Analysis, Reflection (homework, summative assessment): Students will each prepare and submit a short (1–2 page) paper describing their initial impression of the case, changes resulting from the synthesis of additional data and discussion with others, and the impact of different forms of data considered in the overall analysis.

Unit 5 Sensory Map Development

  • Goals:
    • Evaluate and analyze collected data to characterize an environmental concern.
    • Use collected data to produce a map of sensory experience that conveys social and physical concerns clearly and accurately.
  • Sensory Map Development (in-class activity and homework, summative assessment): At the beginning of the session, the instructor will ask the students to draw, exchange with a partner, and discuss a sketched map (of directions to their home, for example). After the paired discussion, the instructor will lead a short class discussion on the basic precepts of map design. As part of their field work, student groups should have acquired or developed a map of their field area and used that map while recording field data. Student groups will discuss the sensory data collected in the field, consider the possible design of maps to display and characterize their data, and develop draft maps. The draft maps will be presented to the class as part of a gallery walk activity after which each group will have an opportunity to discuss the feedback received. As homework, each student or group will produce a map showing the sensory data collected in a format of their own choosing. The map will include a short paper (1–3 pages) describing the author's justification for data selection and map design.

Adapting the Module to Different Courses

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »