InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Water: Science and Society
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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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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Water: Science and Society

This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Mar 31, 2017

Summary

Water: Science and Society is a 10-module (12-week) general education course focused on the interrelationships between water and human activities from a science and policy standpoint. The course blends key readings with activities (e.g. data analysis, plotting, exploration of simple models) designed to investigate the physical and chemical processes that determine water occurrence, movement, and quality.

Strengths of the Course

Students who learn with this class will:

  • address fundamental and emerging issues of water quality, scarcity, and management
  • develop an understanding of the underlying physics and geology that govern water occurrence and movement
  • explore water use issues and conflicts related to climate change, flooding and drought, urban and agricultural water issues, and the economics of water
  • develop an appreciation for the interconnectedness of water, human activities, and the landscape.

In working with data, students will:

  • use Google Earth to explore watershed hydrology
  • find and utilize high-quality data sources available online
  • interpret visual representations of data, including maps, graphs, and other figures
  • design a "Water Portfolio" for a water-critical urban area based on supply and demand, economics, and quality of life.

Overall, this course and embedded modules are intended to be used as a stand-alone, blended or online general education or introductory-level course that would satisfy a science distribution requirement. The course is appropriate for non-majors and undeclared students looking for a major. The authors expect that this course would be delivered as 12 weeks of content with 2-3 weeks additional for course introduction and assessment. As a general guideline, the delivery of content and assessment of learning goals/objectives have been designed to accommodate the logistics of large class sizes where students are expected to work approximately 3 hours per week covering lecture content with an additional 6 hours per week of additional reading, work on formative assessments, etc. Note that some students will require more or less time to meet the goals and objectives of the course. Alternatively, this course could be adapted for a 4-5 week intersession course (or summer class) where students would be expected to devote up to 12 hours for course lecture each week. This course will be offered in both 100% online and blended formats. The blended format will include online lecture and weekly face-to-face labs. A third of the course focuses on the value and distribution of water, a third on the behavior, and a third on social and political aspects of water.

Supported Earth Science Literacy Principles:

  • Big Idea 1: Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.

Supported Essential Principles of Climate Science:

2. Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.

4. Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.

5. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and human-made processes.

6. Human activities are impacting the climate system.

7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

Addressed grand challenges in Earth and environmental science:

  • Recognizing the signal within the natural variability
  • Quantifying consequences, impacts, and effects
  • Effectively communicating uncertainty and relative risk

Addressed grand challenges in Earth system science for global sustainability:

  • Determine how to anticipate, avoid, and manage disruptive global environmental change
  • Determine institutional, economic, and behavioral changes to enable effective steps toward global sustainability
  • Encourage innovation (and mechanisms for evaluation) in technological, policy, and social responses to achieve global sustainability


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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 »