Terri Plake: Using Water, Agriculture, and Sustainability in Hydrology: Sacred Waters at Northwest Indian College
About this Course300 level students majoring in Native Environmental Science
Hydrology syllabus (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 49kB Nov30 16)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
I teach at a tribal college in the Pacific Northwest. The module was piloted in an introductory hydrology course that focuses on our local hydrologic systems with emphasis on salmonid habitat. The course is an elective for the Bachelors Degree in Native Environmental Science and taken by students interested mainly in natural resource management. Class size is generally 5-8 students, however the module was piloted in a class with only 2 students enrolled.Students found the content of the module engaging, informative, and inspiring to exercise critical thinking in their work. The module covers content that is not generally found (yet) in mainstream textbooks but should be. This module fills a gap in content for instructors who want to build strong awareness about water sustainability through inquiry, statistics, and data. Activities brought to light critical issues about water that students "had no idea," inspiring deep critical thinking that lead them to action! The whole module could be taught in about 15-20 hours. Alternatively, if you are looking for an engaging activity(ies), most activities are easily adapted to fit into your course, I think especially suitable for any science, humanities, social science, economics courses where you want to enhance real-world issues and problems concerning water.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterials
Teaching this module was an educational experience for me. I found that our collection of materials in this module added dimensions and a groundbreaking framework needed for my students to be able to find real-world relevance in their own lives and possibly be relevant to their future career path. Our module brings to light aspects of agriculture and water use discovered through examining data that the status quo on present water use is not sustainable. The readings are informative and interesting. Students got a lot out of analyzing the data from the selected websites, interpreting the data, and coming to their own conclusions. I drew on other engaging InTeGrate Modules such as Environmental Justice and Freshwater Resources, Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity to compliment the hydrology course as well as other courses that I teach. To accommodate my course outcomes and small class size, module activities were easily adapted. For many of the group activities students and I together reviewed the various data and then the students would choose specific materials that suited their interests to study in detail.
I found that there may be students who work or who have family members who are involved in the agriculture industry. Therefore it is important for the instructor to know their students to avoid any possibility of unintentionally alienating anyone. I say this because some of the module content may be conceived as judging negatively and picking on agriculture industry practices. Of course, a goal is critical thinking about the sustainability of current practices. In my class we opened a discussion about this matter and checked in throughout the quarter.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
My class met for two 120 minute class sessions per week for 11 weeks.
The module was piloted after the midterm, the 6th through 8th week of the quarter.
Since piloting the module we have modified the assessments quite substantially based on feedback to better reflect the learning expectations in the outcomes. With only two students in my class, formative assessment took place in every class session. Students wrote engaging summative essays that demonstrated the mastery of the outcomes. I included the summative essay in the final exam given for the course.
My goals for the course were to have students to have a deep understanding of the hydrologic cycle and impacts of human activity on the health of the system in terms of water quality, water quantity, especially in relation to salmon habitat. The module contained important aspects of impacts of agriculture to our waterways. With ease of adapting the units to our place, the module content and activities were effective in delivering this part of the curriculum. The module integrates content that I wouldn't have considered for my course such as virtual water and economics of agriculture. My students are working towards being environmental leaders for their people in the sciences. Someday they will be "sitting at the table" engaging in discussion with other leaders for critical decisions regarding the future of their animal and plant relatives. They will be the voice for the relatives who cannot speak up for themselves. They will speak for the water. They will speak for the salmon. They will speak for the clams and oysters. They will speak for the forest and river ecosystem.They will be the voice that speaks up for the restoration of the water and the habitat that has been sacrificed for human convenience. I am so very proud of my students and their future work.