2010 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (31 October 3 November 2010)
Paper No. 208-8
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM-3:45 PM

IMPROVING STUDENT COMPREHENSION OF SCIENTIFIC AND SOCIETAL COMPLEXITIES ASSOCIATED WITH ENERGY RESOURCES THROUGH A FIELD-BASED STRATEGY

BAKER, Gregory S., Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, 1412 Circle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-1410, gbaker@tennessee.edu

Building on strong evidence that the in-person hands-on education operating in field-based courses commonly surpasses classroom-only education in terms of comprehension and retention, a field-based energy resource course has been developed for incoming honors freshman at the University of Tennessee. This course is focused on Earth’s energy resources and utilizes introductory earth science as the backdrop. The principle objective of this course is to expose the “best and brightest” students of the university to the important issues involved with both renewable and non-renewable energy resources in the United States, understanding that leading the United States into environmentally sustainable energy independence will be one of the major challenges of their generation. Even if the students do not become geoscience majors, it is important that they understand all available energy resources, from oil to solar, in order to intelligently deliberate on the issues and be better prepared for their future. The inaugural course was run in late summer 2009 for 15 students. The highlight of this program was spending nearly three weeks in the Rocky Mountains of the Western United States (Wyoming and Idaho). The course (4 credits, lecture plus lab) involved an active-learning, hands-on approach whereby students were able to experience—first-hand—most of the current options for US energy: oil/gas exploration, pumping & drilling; nuclear; active coal mines; wind & solar farms; biofuel farms and processing facilities; geothermal power plants; and other unique facilities. Students toured various facilities and met the engineers and geoscientists that work therein while gaining important information through more formal in situ lectures and exercises. In addition, students were exposed to informal interactions with various community leaders (e.g., the mayor of Pinedale, WY) to better understand complicated societal issues. Both anecdotal and quantitative assessment tools indicate that enthusiasm for the topic, an appreciation for the complexity of the topic (both scientific and societal), and comprehension of the topic was enhanced significantly by the course.

2010 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (31 October 3 November 2010)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 208
Energy Education in the Geoscience Classroom: Preparing Future Citizens, Scientists, and Policy Makers
Colorado Convention Center: Room 201
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 42, No. 5, p. 496

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