TEACHING GEN ED COURSES TO MOTIVATE AND INFORM FUTURE DECISION MAKERS
In my 200-level Environmental Geology course, students work throughout the term on an environmental site assessment of a city that they are interested in learning more about. The impetus is that some day they will make what will probably be the biggest investment of their life when they buy a house. What should they be aware of when making this decision besides how many rooms there are? To answer this question, they research the topics we cover in class, as they apply to their city – specific natural hazards, water supply and potential contamination issues, and waste management issues, including waste water, solid waste, and hazardous waste. They first have to describe the geography and geology of the area so that they have a context for explaining why or why not there are hazards like earthquakes, downstream flooding, indoor radon, etc. in their area. They have to provide maps and other figures to illustrate their main points and reference all their sources.
Students often cite this project in the end-of-term feedback as a key element that engaged them in the course, making what they were learning have real-life application for them personally. I have also occasionally heard from parents about how their student made sure they didn’t buy a house in a karst plain or too close to a bluff. Guiding students to these realizations is a key goal for me in teaching geology to non-majors.