2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


NICOLAS, Leslie Anne, 1325 Devonshire Ave, San Leandro, CA 94579 and BERRY, William B.N., Earth and Planetary Science, Univ of California, 307 McCone MC 4767, Berkeley, CA 94720, leslienicolas@berkeley.edu

With all the technology available and new teaching formats emerging for earth science, it is often forgotten that the earth is our best instructor and nature our best classroom. Assignments in Environmental Geology at the University of California, Berkeley, engage students in learning about the environments in which they live by having them make observations and analyzing them. One assignment requires students to record their observations of Strawberry Creek processes for eleven weeks at a site of their choice. Students analyze their observations and draw conclusions about stream and watershed processes using lecture information to make interpretations and enhance understanding. A second assignment asks students to select one environmental aspect of where or how they live – water use, energy use, waste production and its consequences, or food consumed and its consequences – and observe, record, and analyze their actions regarding environmental impacts. In lieu of a text, the combination of the assignments with guest lectures by representatives of local agencies such as East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), AC Transit, and campus food service and waste management staff – and even the Mayor of Berkeley - compelled students to see the impacts both locally and on the earth of auditing their habits and observing the impacts. These observations and analyses serve more than just a basis for grading, for the class data obtained in the past years have influenced campus buildings plans and environmental policies, which, in turn, affected the policies of the city of Berkeley and the state of California. By breaking out of the lecture-textbook custom, students not only learn about and understand environmental problems of the earth and ways those problems might may be solved, but also how to start solving those problems on both small and large scales.