Northeastern Section - 40th Annual Meeting (March 14–16, 2005)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM


PRINCIPATO, Sarah M., Environmental Studies, Gettysburg College, 300 North Washington St, Box 2455, Gettysburg, PA 17325,

The focus of this study is to evaluate an Earth System Science course taught to Environmental Studies majors. The Department of Environmental Studies at Gettysburg College requires all majors and minors to take ES 223: Earth System Science as part of a core set of courses, which also includes Environmental Policy, Principles of Ecology, Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, and other courses in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. In addition to completing the core courses, students chose a concentration in the subject area of their choice. Students enrolled in ES 223 usually have no previous geological training and commonly have taken only one course in the natural sciences. There is no Geology Department at Gettysburg College, and Earth System Science is sometimes the only course in the Geological Sciences that Environmental Studies majors take.

The purpose of this research is to examine the use of laboratory assignments and projects in ES 223. Twenty-four students completed a post-class survey addressing questions about the laboratory sessions during Fall, 2004. They were asked to evaluate each lab in terms of knowledge gained, enjoyment, and relevance to the major and their future career. Students commonly rated the laboratory projects that included fieldtrips and fieldwork the highest in all categories, even though they had extensive lab reports to write about the fieldwork. In-class labs were commonly rated lower in terms of enjoyment and variable in terms of knowledge gained, even though these labs were completed within the three hour allotted time. Laboratory assignments about Groundwater Properties, Streams, and Energy were ranked as the most relevant to the major. Results regarding future careers are variable, perhaps indicating that students are uncertain of their career goals. The results of this analysis reinforce the importance of modifying traditional geological laboratory assignments when teaching in an interdisciplinary department.