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Gigi Richard: Using Water Sustainability in Cities at the Colorado Mesa University

About this course

Environmental Geology is an intermediate-level course that is required for environmental geology majors, and a restricted elective for geology majors.

12
students
Three 50-minute lecture
sessions per week
Small public four-year liberal arts institution

Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 496kB Aug14 15)

A Success Story in Building Student Engagement

The Water Sustainability in Cities Module was implemented for the last three weeks of a 200-level environmental geology course with 14 students. The course is a required course for environmental geology majors, and a restricted elective for geology majors. The students varied from sophomore- to senior-level in the geosciences with the majority of them being sophomores and juniors. The module content had to be reduced to accommodate nine 50-minute class periods, instead of 75-minute class periods, so Unit 6 was not used. The module was used in lieu of the usual coverage of water resources in the course. The summative assessment (Unit 9) was used as the final exam with an individual essay followed by group presentations. Also, the class does not meet in a computer classroom, so additional adaptations were made to adjust for the lack of computers.

The flipped classroom approach was well received by the students. The students were especially engaged during the classroom activities.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials

The entire module (except Unit 6) was adapted to fit into 50-minute class periods instead of 75-minutes periods. Unit 9 was used as a final exam, with some additional essay questions, an individual report on the design project and a group presentation.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to My Course

The Water Sustainability in Cities Module was used to cover the water resources section of the course. The last three weeks of the semester and the final exam period were devoted to the module. Earlier in the semester, we had covered stream processes and flood hazard, so the students were familiar with some of the concepts related to surface runoff, flood magnitude and frequency and streamflow. Our class did not meet in a computer lab, so some units were adapted for that, and a computer lab was reserved for the units where computers were necessary. Students stayed in the same small groups through the whole module.

Assessments

Each of the pre-class assignments were due on the day of the unit and were graded for credit toward their course grade. I found this to be very effective in getting the students to do the pre-class assignments and to come to class prepared to participate in the in-class activities. The disadvantage is that I had a lot of grading to do, and it was a lot of papers to manage. In the future, I would do the pre-class assignments in our online learning management system.

Unit 9's final design project was used as the final exam for the course (with the addition of some closed-book comprehensive essay questions administered during the first hour of the final exam period). Students prepared an individual written report with a plan for the final design, including computations and discussion. Then as a group during the final they compared their individual plans and created a group design. The Unit 9 rubric was used for grading both the individual reports and the group presentations.

Outcomes

My goal for the module was to explore the flipped classroom concept and to introduce students to sustainability concepts related to water resources. I was very impressed with how well the flipped classroom concept worked. My students were very engaged in the module and did the pre-class assignments in a timely manner. Class attendance was great for the in-class activities. The students seemed to have fun with the design projects and were excited to finish their group designs. Based on the post-assessment essay questions, they seemed to have gained a good understanding of urban water systems and sustainability concepts.

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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 »