United Nations Environmental Summit

Cynthia Hall and Adem Ali, College of Charleston | hallcr@cofc.edu
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Environmental geology is applied geology and being applied requires an understanding of all of the pieces of the puzzle. This activity is a culmination of many ideas learned in environmental geology: discussing the issue of population growth as well as a driving force, plate tectonics, behind a changing climate and many hazards, and then the hazards themselves, discussing anthropogenic climate change and the implications globally. An understanding of each of these and their interconnectedness provides a great context for decision-making and earth science literacy. This activity attempts to take all of the knowledge mentioned here and make judgements and decisions based on a real-world scenario

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Learning Goals

Content/concepts goals
Students apply physical/natural principles to analyze and solve real-world problems.
Students develop an understanding of the impact that environmental science has on society.
Students evaluate society's dependence on Earth resources, the interaction between human activities and the natural environment, and the geological hazards faced by many communities.

Higher order thinking skills goals
Application and synthesis of ideas
Evaluating information and analyzing data
Making judgements
Exploring relationships between issues

Other skills goals
Searching the web
Use of technology
Presentation and communication

Context for Use

Type and level of course
I typically use this in an introductory environmental geology course for non-majors

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
Students must understand the geologic concepts of plate tectonics, natural hazards (how and why they occur and how humans exacerbate the hazard), resources, climate change (natural and anthropogenic) and sustainability. Students must understand the concept of earth system science to show linkages between and the interdependence of Earth's systems.

How the activity is situated in the course
I use this as a culminating final project as students must take everything that they have learned throughout the semester and apply it to a real world situation.

Description and Teaching Materials

As a representative to the United Nations for a country, you have been invited to participate and share in an environmental summit to discuss environmental issues affecting your socioeconomic development and the way of life. Specifically the UN has asked you prepare a thorough report (in the form of research notes) for the environmental summit on how the sustainable development in your country is affected by the following issues: population, plate tectonics, and hazards. Then based on your reports and evaluations, make a final conclusion and discuss future prospects for your country – what are your recommendations and what direction should your country take for a sustainable future?

In addition, the UN wants to inform and appeal to a younger crowd, raising the awareness of some of these hot topic issues. So they are working with YouTubers to create Epic Song Battles of the Environment.
Student Handout for UN Environmental Summit and Epic Song Battle (Acrobat (PDF) 93kB Apr27 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips


I use the rubrics within the student handout to assess their ability to synthesize ideas, understand concepts, and make linkages between concepts. In addition, I also assess whether all components are readily available, ability to collaborate and reason, creativity, etc.

References and Resources