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Environmental Science Summer Institute at Carleton College

Program Type:
Summer Teaching Institute Workshop

Program Size:
Up to 20 In-service teachers can participate in workshop.
Audience: High School AP Environmental Science Teachers; Middle School Teachers; High School Biology and Chemistry Teachers

Mary Savina, Ph.D. (website ( This site may be offline. ) )
McBride Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies
Department of Geology at Carleton College (more info)

Gary Wagenbach, Ph.D. (Contact Info )
Director of Environmental and Technology Studies
Department of Biology at Carleton College (more info)

Program Summary

Participants of 2005 Summer Teaching Institute in Environmental Science; photo taken by Theo Stroomer.
This workshop is a team-taught exploration of selected topics found in the AP Environmental Science course, an inherently interdisciplinary subject. During the week-long workshop, participants learn how to use locally accessible field sites that provide the opportunity to explore concepts that apply in both a local and more global sense. Topics covered include biology and geology of rivers and lakes (hydrology, biota, and human uses, such as local water supply and waste water treatment), solid earth (rock cycle and processes, soils, sanitary land fill, farms and subdivisions), biosphere (local and regional biota and ecosystems, biodiversity, agriculture), atmosphere (physical processes, N cycle, and air pollution). Participants also learn how to utilize Internet and other computer resources to access data sets and analytic procedures that are useful in any environmental science course.

What was the impetus for the program?

This program was initiated through Carleton College's Summer Teaching Institute which hosts workshops in collaboration with the AP College Board, which added an AP Environmental Science course in the late 90's. The Environmental Science Summer Institute was developed to engage participants in designing curricula that incorporate their local environment and geological features into their classroom activities.

How is the program structured?

Much of this workshop is field-based, incorporates inquiry-based investigations, and is approched from an interdisciplinary perspective.

During a trip to the Prairie Creek watershed, workshop participants:
  • Observe and discuss the different natural ecosystems at the Prairie, including the Big Woods and wetlands
  • Observe, describe, and discuss soils across the Prairie, using published soils maps and descriptions, and examine the influences of topography, parent material, and vegetation on soil development
  • Observe and discuss geologic history, vegetation patterns and vegetation history, including exotic and/or invasive plants, through demonstrations of techniques in vegetation sampling
  • Observe and discuss human influence on these ecosystems, especially through agriculture and alteration of the hydrologic cycle
  • Observe and discuss landscape conservation, preservation, restoration, remediation, and sustainability
  • Observe and discuss the watershed as a natural unit of environmental science
  • Demonstrate use of air photo interpretation to discern vegetation and land use patterns

Who is involved?

The Environmental Science Summer Institute is led by two Carleton College faculty members, Gary Wagenbach (from the Department of Biology) and Mary Savina (from the Department of Geology). The Summer Institute is organized by the Summer Academic Programs office at Carleton College.

In-service teachers from middle school through high school participate in the Environmental Science week-long workshop. Teachers of AP Environmental Science participate, as well as Biology and Chemistry teachers who wish to incorporate Environmental Science activities and learning opportunities into their curriculum.

References and Notes: