Robert Turner: Using the Water, Agriculture, and Sustainability Module in Water and Sustainability at University of Washington-Bothell Campus
About this CourseA popular elective course for all majors, mostly taken by non-science majors to satisfy a "Natural World" requirement of the University of Washington or by students interested in sustainability or environmental studies.
Syllabus (Microsoft Word 440kB Aug1 16)
Engaging Students in the Unsustainability of Water Use
The generation and inclusion of the InTeGrate Module (Water, Agriculture, and Sustainability) in my Water and Sustainability course is another big step in its gradual evolution. It started as hydrology light, which was unsatisfactory for everyone involved. Over time the sustainability aspects of the course grew to the extent that it squeezed out the water focus. This prompted me to take the bulk of what the course had become and generate a new course (Principles and Controversies of Sustainability) so I could pivot back to water challenges and opportunities in this course.
The collaborative process that spawned the InTeGrate module has been instrumental in giving my course a well-considered pedagogical approach and new focus. Specifically, there are now more student-centered activities for each class and a new emphasis on agricultural practices as they impact water resources. Some quotes from student evaluations of the course can be found below in the Outcomes section of this web page.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterialsI used all aspects of the module but had the luxury of adding on to the units and activities. This mostly took the form of more extensive supportive power point presentations and some additional readings. The module is designed with one hour activities, but my course meets for 2 hour sessions. This gave me more time to let activities play out and to have longer discussions.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
The course is 10 weeks long. The module was implemented in weeks 3-7.
The topics that came before the module were:
- Origins of Water
- The Hydrologic Cycle
- Perspectives on Water and Nature
- Drinking Water Supplies and Wastewater Treatment in the Seattle Metro Region
In week 4 I inserted a unit on Water Conflicts that is not included in the module.
After the module was completed, we covered the following topics:
- Agriculture and Water Pollution Pt. II
- POPs, EDCs & Biomagnification
- Class Debate: Should We Support Water Resource Privatization?
- Water Rights
- Climate Change and Water
- Evaluation of Non-Profit Water Charity Organizations
- Aquatic Biodiversity
- Integrated Water Management
- Identifying Indicators of Sustainability in Case Studies
- Role Play: Stakeholders and Decisions in the Yakima Basin
- Water Sustainability Summit
I used the following assessments for the module:
- Pre-Instruction Formative Assessment Essay Prompt
- Multiple low stakes online discussion forums revolving around the readings of Units 1 and 2
- Sustainability in the Context of Water Essay (formative assessment for units 1 and 2)
- Quiz to Assess Learning in Units 3-5
- Post-Module Summative Assessment Essay (essentially the same question prompts as the Pre-Instruction Formative Assessment)
All of the assessments were received by the students well. They particularly liked the online discussions and the group work activities. They were stressed out by the Quiz for units 3-5.
My primary goal for the module in my course was to give my students a deeper understanding, as well as awaken their senses of urgency and of agency, with regard to problems of water availability, allocation, equity, efficiency, and quality.
My assessment is that it works!
What follows are some quotes from anonymous student evaluations of the course...
- "I came out of this class with so much more knowledge of water issues than I had going in. I feel that I can critically engage is discussions of water and sustainability in my every day life. I was also encouraged to reflect on my own usage of water and how I can make changes in my life to help combat the water crisis."
- "I think this is one of the first Natural World credits that got me engaged and was intersectional and interdisciplinary, and maintained social justice as a core value. I learned a lot about water, and the ways that it is vital yet we often as people mess up."
- "This was the first class that was truly interdisciplinary."
- "I am a business major so the course material was a bit outside of what I am used to but I learned quite a bit in this course and ended up changing some predisposed opinions I had going in."
- "The topic and questions posed really challenged what I thought I knew about water & sustainably - and opened a lot of new ways of thinking about water issues."
- "The best parts of class were the handouts and doing like 3-4 answers at a time with partners and going over it in class. It made the learning fun and the content was easy to remember."