Jennifer Sliko: Using Water: Science and Society at Penn State Harrisburg
About this course
The students generally worked through the module and the formative assessments on their own and we met once a week for 2 hours to review the material and work on the summative assessments.
Course description: This course is designed as a general-education investigation of the importance of water to the existence of life on Earth, and the qualities of water that lead to its unusual but critical properties. The first part of the course will provide a basic scientific background for understanding water movement, occurrence, and behavior, through a series of interactive activities. The second part of the course will draw upon this scientific framework to understand the relationships between water and human activities. Among other diverse topics, we will examine the role of water in climate regulation, the impact of water on human populations and activities, the benefits and drawbacks of modern water management strategies related to irrigation and dams, and policy issues regarding water quality and availability. A sense of the human history of water use and the impacts of natural cycles will be conveyed through activities, virtual field trips (filmed footage with the instructors and discussion focused on key topics related to surface water, water reuse and recycling, and dams), and assigned readings and associated online discussions. Although we will focus on case studies from the American West, we will extend this to include global issues of water scarcity and potential conflict, for example in India, China, and the Fertile Crescent.
Course goals and content: This course is a general education natural science elective, and the students enrolled in the course were from a variety of non-science majors. Topics covered include personal water usage, freshwater resource availability, climatology of water, rivers and watersheds, floods and droughts, dams, aquifers, water contaminants, water scarcity, and water politics. The goals of the course are to:
- effectively describe the two-way relationship between water resources and human society: how water availability and quality affect economic opportunities and human well-being and how human activity affects water resources;
- knowledgeably explain the distribution and dynamics of water at the surface and in the subsurface of Earth and how the distribution and characteristics are expected to change over the next 50 years;
- identify appropriate data collection practices for a variety of hydrologic data, synthesize and analyze data from multiple sources, and interpret the results;
- develop strategies and best practices to decrease water stress and increase water quality;
- thoughtfully evaluate information and policy statements regarding the current and future predicted state of water resources, and communicate their evaluations in terms that can be understood by the general public.
A Success Story in Building Student EngagementThis class was a general education natural elective option for non-science majors. This class was scheduled as a hybrid class (meaning the students worked on most of the material on their own and only formally met once a week), and this schedule appealed to busy students looking to fit an elective into their schedule. This class was completely different from other Earth science electives and the students enjoyed talking about the "social" aspect of the water science.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
I made several changes to the schedule to account for expected and unexpected missed class meetings. To compensate for an expected cancelled class meeting, I taught Modules 6.1 and 6.2 before teaching Modules 4 and 5. Module 4 was completed entirely online to correspond to the missed class. Modules 8.1 and 8.2 were combined into one week to compensate for an unexpected missed class due to a snow day. Module 9 was also completed entirely online.
The entire class (a hybrid class) was based on the InTeGrate Materials from Water:Science and Society. The students generally worked through the module and the formative assessments on their own and we met once a week for two hours to review the material and work on the summative assessments. We met in the geology/soils lab, and there were 10 active students in my course (13 were enrolled in the course).
The students worked through the readings and formative assessments independently. The students also completed their water journals during the week. During our class meeting, the students presented their water journals and we had a class discussion about water issues in Detroit and Atlanta.
The students completed the readings and formative assessments independently and worked on the summative assessment during the class meeting. We also had a class discussion about Hadley cells, relative humidity, and the orographic effect. We also went over Formative Assessment #4 as a class.
- The students completed the readings and formative assessments independently and worked on the summative assessment during the class meeting. We also had a class discussion about contour maps, how to calculate gradient/slope, and how to create a profile.
- This module was completed after Modules 6.1 and 6.2. The students completed this module entirely online and submitted the work by a set deadline.
- This module was completed after Modules 6.1, 6.2, and 4. The students completed the readings and formative assessments independently. Students had 10 minutes to collaborate with partners before starting the debates. A midterm review sheet was also passed out at the end of class.
- Before the class meeting, I "primed" the Darcy Tubes with water. This module was completed before Modules 4 and 5. The students completed the readings and formative assessments independently and worked on the summative assessment during the class meeting. We also went over how to calculate the area of a circle and the change in head as a class. The students then divided into two groups to complete the lab activity.
- This module was completed before Modules 4 and 5. The students completed the readings and formative assessments independently and worked on the summative assessment during the class meeting.
- The students completed the readings and formative assessments independently and worked on the summative assessment during the class meeting. We had a class discussion about Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. We also discussed why water can become dis/anoxic.
Module 8.1 and 8.2
- Modules 8.1 and 8.1 were combined into a single week. The students completed the readings and formative assessments 8.1-1, 8.1-2, 8.1-3, 8.2-1, and 8.2-2 independently. In class, we watched Cadillac Desert Part 2: American Nile. The students then worked in groups of 2–3 to complete Summative Assessment 8.2.
- The students completed this module entirely online and submitted the work by a set deadline.
The students completed the readings and formative assessments independently and worked on the summative assessment during the class meeting. We also discussed the student interviews with family and friends about the Living Filter and the Orange County GWRS.
This course makes use of formative "checkpoints" with automated feedback built in to the online materials. In addition, each module contains several more substantial formative assessments, often in the form of essays. Most instructors will want to choose from among these formative assessments, or give their students the choice of which formative assessment to complete. All summative assessments are necessary in order for the students to get the maximum benefit from each module.
This course makes use of a number of different assessment elements:
- Formative Assessments with automated feedback
- "Activate Your Learning" elements have students interact with the online content, such as interpreting a graph or map.
- "Food for Thought" elements have students respond to more philosophical questions.
- "Learning Checkpoints" are short-answer or multiple-choice questions that review or apply the content as it is provided.
- Formative Assessments to be turned in
- The students complete these at home and bring to the lab/discussion session with them. Some formative assessments involve numerical calculations, some involve interpretation of graphs or figures, and many are short essays. They are generally used to prepare the students for the in-class labs, activities, or discussions.
- Summative Assessments
- These are generally completed during the in-class lab/discussion session, although some preparatory work may be required before coming to class. The goal is to synthesize and apply the topics covered in each module. Summative assessments are designed to encourage students to interact with real data, in some cases to create their own data sets, and to verbalize some of the larger societal problems posed by water accessibility issues. Examples include:
- Water Use Journal
- Hadley Cell Analysis
- Topographic Map Interpretation
- Hometown Flood Hazard Assessment
- Dams Debate
- Darcy Tube Experiments
- Hydraulic Head Analysis
- Water Contaminant Fact Sheet
- Water Portfolio for Phoenix, AZ
- Short Paper on Water Sharing Across Borders
- Capstone Project
- Students develop a comprehensive Water Portfolio to serve a water-critical urban area of their choosing.
This course was taught as a general education elective and was meant to be different from the same, traditional electives normally offered. This class is completely different from the other geology-based electives, and the topics are relevant and designed to be interesting for non-science majors.