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Environmental Assessment Course

Suzanne Savanick, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College. Based on a Greening the Campus environmental studies colloquium course taught at Carleton College in 1991.
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


The classic campus-based project is an environmental or sustainability assessment, often referred to as an environmental audit. This course, taught at Carleton in 2001, describes how this type of project can be undertaken. In this scenario, a student, campus environmental group or class researches aspects the environmental impact of the school.

Learning Goals

Students will understand how the campus is linked with the larger environment. Students will learn how to collect data by interviewing and researching, analyze findings, and make recommendations. Students will also learn how to present their findings to campus decision-makers.

Context for Use

This project works best as a term-long project. It can be done by an individual student or by groups of students working in teams.

The coure taught was a required course for environmental studies students. It was one credit, but the evaluations recommended having it as a three credit (typical course credit) course. The students were from several disciplines, but mostly all in their junior year of study.

Teaching Materials

Carleton College's Greening the Campus Course Syllabus (Microsoft Word 27kB Jul13 05) Campus Case Analysis Worksheet (Microsoft Word 31kB Jul14 05)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This course used the following procedure:


References and Resources

Penn State Environmental Indicators Report is an example of a large, comprehensive environmental assessment project.

Other useful references:

National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology Program offers technical assistance to campus students, staff and faculty on campus-based sustainability projects. They also have an extensive listing of projects at other colleges and universities.

University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF): assists colleges and universities with sustainability issues. ULSF the secretariat for the Tallois Declaration, a campus sustainability declaration signed by hundreds of college and university presidents.


Biology, Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Biogeochemical cycling, Environmental Science:Sustainability, Environmental Science

Resource Type

Course Information:Course Site:Course Notes, Course Information:Goals/Syllabi, Activities:Project

Special Interest

Local Issue:Campus-Based, Sustainability

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Human Dimensions, Biosphere, Ecology


Ecology, Human Dimensions/Resources, Energy/Material cycles


Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Service Learning, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Sustainability, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Biogeoscience

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