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Environmental Science Gallery Walk

Rachel Headley, University of Wisconsin-Parkside
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Initial Publication Date: September 4, 2014


On the first day of class, students in group go from poster to poster and write environmental issues that they consider important in normal gallery walk fashion, with about 2 minutes per poster. The posters have a topic ("the atmosphere," "glaciers," "Lake Michigan," etc.) and a few posters. When they return back to their original poster, they choose one point that they think is interesting or especially important and present it to the class.

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Learning Goals

Students engage and interact with their classmates (generally difficult in a large lecture class).
Students rely upon their and their group's prior knowledge and experiences to determine environmental issues.
Students reflect on others' responses and often edit or build off of these responses.
Students examine multiple scales of environmental issues (local to global, single organism to full biome, etc.)
Students synthesize, or at least rank, all the information on the poster to present a single major point to the whole class.

Context for Use

Environmental Science (GEOS 103) is a general education course. Students range from new freshman to seniors, and the major distribution is very broad. This is often one of only a few science classes that non-science majors might take.

I used this in a 50-60 person lecture class, so there were about 5-6 students per group, which is probably the upper limits of student participation, but it could easily be done in a smaller class. In a bigger class, I would suggest making multiple gallery rotations to keep the groups reasonable.

Each group went to each poster for 2 minutes and wrote environmental issues on it, which included adding new issues or editing/augmenting others issues. Finally, major points were presented to the class. The total time devoted to this activity was about 35-40 minutes, including getting them in and out of their seats and putting their names on their original posters.

Teaching Materials

  • Easel paper or poster-size paper
  • Relevant pictures
  • Markers (preferably a specific color for each group)
  • Space for students to walk around in

Physical Setting: I set up 10 posters around a large lecture hall. Each poster had a separate topic on it. Some topics were global-scale, like the Atmosphere and Oceans. Some were just very general, like Rivers, Forests, Cities, Farms, and Glaciers. Some were place-specific, like California, Alaska, Lake Michigan (we're 3 miles from the lake).

Teaching Notes and Tips

I used this activity as an ice breaker for the class on the very first day. I really wanted students to see that they already have a decent knowledge or at least awareness of many environmental issues, but there are also many topics that they can learn about.


When the students presented issues, I was able to see that they were in fact focusing on real environmental issues and not just interesting but not quite relevant topics. I went through the posters, and I intend to use them to guide future discussions. No graded assessments were used, though the activity counts as part of a participation score.

References and Resources

SERC Gallery Walk Guide: http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/gallerywalk/index.html