Model Assignment: How healthy is your neighborhood?
The following assignment serves as a model for using the environmental health assessment tools and databases in the classroom. The activity requires students to perform an environmental health risk inventory of a selected locale, similar to the example found in the tutorial. In this assignment, students will address anthropogenic and natural health risks in their hometown or neighborhood using data collected from online mapping tools and databases. Students will also complete a reflection and summary of their results.
In recent years, the public has become more and more aware of potential environmental hazards in their nations, neighborhoods and homes. The media highlights environmental health related stories, communities are more aware of the hazards presented in their area, and students are often exposed to environmental science subjects beginning in elementary school. People are concerned about exposure to contaminants in drinking water, potential hazardous material exposure, toxic pollutants in air, and pesticides and other foreign substances found in food (CPA, 2005).
The geosciences provide an ideal platform from which to teach about environmental health risk assessments. Many subjects in the geosciences are central to human and environmental health. Hydrogeology, atmospheric science, geology, and physical and human geography reflect on topics such as air and water quality, and natural and anthropogenic toxins. As GIS-based mapping tools and large health-related data sets become more prominently available on the web, instructors can provide a real-time opportunity to evaluate the environmental risks and health hazards in their own neighborhoods. The tools and databases on the web not only provide an opportunity to use data and develop quantitative skills, but also learn the skills necessary to become informed, responsible citizens.