Earth's Natural Resource Systems

Dave Gosselin
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Earth's Natural Resource Systems is designed to introduce students to fundamental concepts in the Earth sciences related to rock and mineral resources, water resources, soil resources, and their role and relationship to current "real world" issues such as sustainability and environmental change.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Integrated lecture and lab

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This an introductory course course with no pre-requisites and does not serve as pre-requisite for other courses. It serves as science enhancement course for pre-service elementary students. It also meets an Earth systems requirement for the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies curriculum. The course satisfies the science general education requirement. Typically 90 to 100% of the students are in education.

Course Goals:

By the end of the course, the student will:
  1. Meet ACE student learning outcome 4 in which the student will use scientific methods and knowledge of the natural and physical world to address problems through inquiry, interpretation, analysis, and the making of inferences from data, to determine whether conclusions or solutions are reasonable.
  2. Describe and explain the basic interactions between the hydrosphere, geosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
  3. Acknowledge and work with individuals who have different perspectives about natural resources.
  4. Develop conceptual models for a variety of Earth's natural resource systems that qualitatively include mass and energy exchange.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the properties, occurrence and distribution of water and soil.
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of rocks and minerals as fundamental resources for humans and scientists who study the Earth.
  7. Explain the basic chemical and physical processes that control the distribution of geologic resources from the Earth including metals and energy.
  8. Explain the social and economic issues that control the availability of mineral and energy resources.
  9. Collect basic data required for the analysis of natural resource systems.
  10. Plot, analyze and interpret data using graphs.
  11. Understand the dependence of all people on both renewable and non-renewable resources.
  12. Describe the impact of humans as stewards, managers and components of natural resources systems.

Course Features:

This course employs a systems approach to understanding natural resources, specifically emphasizing that everything is connected to everything else (ECEE). One of the most important features of this course is that we us a range of learning strategies to impact the potential range of learning styles in the course. Strategies include, but are not be limited to: presentations, activities, group cooperative strategies in which the individuals and group will be held accountable through peer evaluation; group discussions provide students the opportunity to think about and integrate course content through free writing and focused questions; on-line content essays; and field exercises.

Course Philosophy:

In this class, students develop an understanding of the Earth's natural resource using a systems approach and understand that they are part of the system. It is extremely important that students are explicitly shown connections between scientific disciplines and Earth science concepts. It is critical that students understand the dependence of all people on both renewable and non-renewable resources and the potential consequences that human activities have on global processes and the availability of natural resources. It is important that natural resources are considered part of a larger system because it shows that student how to deal more responsibly and rationally with local, regional and global issues. In addition, this approach recognizes that humans are dependent on, impact the distribution of, and influence natural resource systems. Few courses make these connections explicit. For the future educators in this class, many of the activities may be able to be used directly in an elementary, middle school or high school classroom. My role in this class is to provide students with opportunities to learn about the Earth and challenge them as learners.


Student understanding and application of content knowledge is assessed through content mastery assignments at the end of each module. Assignments consist of a scenario that presents a problem or situation and a rubric that outlines the general expectations for their response. Students can use a variety of formats to synthesize their knowledge and understanding of a module's material and to address the scenario. Content mastery activities and graded assignments are used to assess the student's ability to apply components of the scientific method component that include the student's ability to develop a testable hypothesis; collect data; present (graphs and tables), assess and analyze data sets; identify appropriate conclusions; and effectively communicate their findings. Pre- and post-course content assessments are used to provide informationon the extent to which the content has been learned and the ability of the student to apply it new situations.


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 58kB Jun19 09)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes: