Introduction to Environmental Science

Kelly Bringhurst,
Dixie State University


This course is an introduction to the field of environmental science, focusing on how an understanding of the natural world around us and the application of scientific method can help us address problems facing our planet. Subject areas include environmental policy, natural resources, energy, and human impact to the environment.

Course URL:
Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

Introduction to Environmental Science has no pre-requisites. It fulfills general education physical science requirement and is an approved Global & Cultural Perspectives course. Most of the students that take this course are non-science majors, though approximately 10% of students are majoring in biology or environmental science.

Course Content:

The goal of the course is to introduce the field of environmental science. We will attempt to increase our understanding of the natural world. Application of the scientific method to identify and understand environmental problems will be emphasized. Specific objectives are to:
  1. Introduce a variety of environmental problems and solutions in a scientific context.
  2. Enable students to understand environmental issues using a scientific approach.
  3. Improve basic scientific literacy.

Course Goals:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of basic fundamental laws, concepts, and theories in the physical sciences.
  2. Be able to explain and apply the scientific method
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of the process of science by being able to utilize data in the form of tables, graphs, and charts through interpretation and then communicate those finding in oral and or written form.
  4. Introduce a variety of environmental problems and solutions in a scientific context.
  5. Enable students to understand environmental issues using a scientific approach.
  6. Improve basic scientific literacy.

Course Features:

Students are involved in online graded discussions about key environmental issues such as: climate change, flood hazards, food security and sustainable agriculture, and deforestation (including increased flooding, mass wasting, water quality issues, nutrient loss). Scientific data and current issues rising from these risks are explored, and potential solutions to problems are discussed. Issues where there isn't a clear "correct" choice are examined.

Course Philosophy:

This course was designed to provide students with tools necessary to make important decisions as citizens. Scientific processes are emphasized as methods to collect data. Political, cultural and social issues are recognized as important components in how science can be implemented to reduce risk or provide a more sustainable future.

A laboratory component of environmental science has been developed and taught under a separate course "Environmental Science Field Experiences". This course is an intensive 4-day exploration of environmental issues in a field setting. Currently, courses take place on Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California.


Assessment for the lecture portion of the course takes place utilizing 5 exams, discussions and homework involving interpretation of data and graphs.

Assessment of the field experience lab is done using a field notebook. Students record field notes, graph data, make observations and assess what they have learned. Approximately 8 different activities take place over the 4 day field experience.


Introduction to Environmental Science Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 101kB Apr11 14)

References and Notes:

  • The Environment and You (with Mastering Environmental Science) Norm Christensen
  • Current articles from major newspapers dealing with course issues.
  • Research utilizing reliable internet sources.