Environmental Assessment Course
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
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 Notes and Tips
- Brainstorm campus links to environmental issues on the campus:
- A simple exercise that works in both small and large classes is to have the instructor ask the students what the environmental issues are on campus.
- Usually students will come up with topics such as waste disposal, water use, energy use, transportation, landscaping.
- In another variation of this same brainstorming exercize, have the students brainstorm answers to the question, "What are the campus links to global environmental issues such as: global warming, biodiversity loss, acid rain, water pollution?"
- Have students pick topics or subtopics for individual or group research
- Have/Needs Assessment (Birnbaum, 2004) : Have students discuss:
- What they know about their topic?
- What they need to know about their topic?
- Develop Research Plan
- Have students assign tasks to group members
- What are the intermediary steps of the project? Include deadlines and timelines for project completion.
- Class check on progress . One half of the way through the course, have student report on their activities to date. For individual student projects, have students meet with faculty each week to report.
- Report of Findings Facilities management personnel was invited to the class presentations. If taught again, we would make sure that the class met at a time that decison-makers would attend. We would also have students write an executive summary to give to facilities management.
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 ( This site may be offline. ) 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.