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Earth is Our Spaceship

This material was originally created for On the Cutting Edge: Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
Steven Semken, Arizona State University
Course: Introduction to Geology I (Physical)
220 students
Presenting students with a realistic problem-solving task draws them in.

The Activity

Before doing any lecturing, I open with a short cooperative exercise: in groups of 3-4, students respond to three questions I pose (taken from "Earth is our Space Ship" by Bob Butler of the University of Arizona). They are asked to determine what they needed to know, or carry, for three trips of increasing complexity: to the mall, to Mexico, and to Mars.