Environmental Science

Daniel Vaughn, Earth Science, Vincennes University


This course examines issues and events of current importance such as pollution, natural disasters, state and federal land use (including state and national parks), Resource extraction and its effects, and population growth concerns. Labs coordinate with lecture themes and involve case studies, environmental sampling, and student creative projects.

Course Size:
less than 15

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with minor Math and English prerequisites. It is required in several Earth Science concentrations and is a General Education lab science course. The course is generally split about 75% non-science and 25% Earth science majors.

Course Content:

The course addresses basics of environmental science, relevant social phenomena, and the relation of all to resource use & effects. Students have to synthesize data, and derive relationships in order to participate in debates. Labs are new this year and will be cued as closely as possible with lecture themes. This will include water and soil sampling and testing, waste stream analysis, and LCA (life cycle analysis) of common Earth-resource derived "stuff"

Course Goals:

course outcomes from syllabus:
1. Insight into the many dynamic processes occurring in the earth and on its surface.
2. Awareness of the status of world natural resources and trends in their use.
3. An understanding of the methods by which the earth is studied and the importance of studying it.
4. A better understanding and appreciation of Earth's fragile environment.
5. Awareness of threats to the environment, their health, and the health of organisms therein.
6. Increased awareness of related fields within Earth Sciences and future educational and vocational opportunities.

Course Features:

The final project of this class is a team debate on environmental issues. The truly interesting part is that while they choose the themes (in a classroom roundtable) they do not know which side of an issue they will be on. This last semester the best, most well-reasoned argument, was from the team presenting the "Pro" side of ocean pollution/dumping.

Course Philosophy:

Having an interdisciplinary background, I try and approach the topic from traditional "hard science" approaches as well as a socio-philosophic bent. I strive to make these issues more "real" and relatable to their experience by forcing them to have opinions with the knowledge that no opinion is wrong. Although they also are informed that a reasoned opinion is required, and not "just" a gut reaction


Assessment in the lecture portion occur via exams (a midterm, and a final), biweekly quizzes focused in-depth at current material (every 2-ish weeks, the course "wiki" (where students are required to submit weekly entries as a self-derived study guide built off of their own lecture notes), homework, and the final debate (which has reflective scoring from the other students - which also is an assessment tool for the scorer as well, my own score per the rubric, and the synoptic write-up) Lab is a separate grade, so is assessed on the lab reports proper, and a final lab exam.


Syllabus ERTH101 (Microsoft Word 70kB Jun21 12)

Teaching Materials:

Term Project Brief (Microsoft Word 23kB Jun21 12) Project End Products (Acrobat (PDF) 35kB Jun21 12)

References and Notes:

Environmental Science: Foundations and Applications, Andrew Friedland et al, 2012, WH Freeman, 1429240296
They vary based on current events and project foci