2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:20 AM

Developing a “Sense of Place,” a Field-Centered Geoscience Course at the College Level

DONALDSON, Brad A., Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, SHEPPARD, Paul R., Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, 105 West Stadium, Tucson, AZ 85721 and HUCKLEBERRY, Gary, Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, cbdonaldson@yahoo.com

This research addresses a University of Arizona general science education course, Sense of Place, and its influence on developing people's awareness of their surroundings and understanding of interactions between the environment and society. Sense of Place takes students out of the lecture hall. The course relies almost entirely on field trips to teach local geology, ecology, and archaeology as well as the interaction of these three fundamental areas of study. The method to evaluate the course's effectiveness consists of a word association survey given to students before and after taking the course. The survey consists of thirteen words—concepts integral to understanding Tucson, Arizona and the American Southwest: desert, Arizona, Hohokam, geology, Sonoran desert, Tucson, ecology, wildfires, American Southwest, flooding, O'odham, archeology and Sense of Place. The students wrote words and/or phrases that they related to these respective stimulus terms in the survey. Differences between the pre- and post-course associations show clear improvement in knowledge and awareness of Tucson's geology, ecology and cultural history. Word association data were also obtained from two other cohorts of University of Arizona students. Current students who had previously taken Sense of Place (2005-2007) and current students who had never taken Sense of Place also completed the survey and responded to the same stimulus terms. Sense of Place alumni have retained much of their knowledge of geology, ecology, and cultures of Tucson, but the sense of place of students who have never taken the course was not as good. The word association procedure proved to be an easy, unbiased technique to collect data that can then be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the course and its teaching methods.