Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:05 AM
STIMULATING INTEREST OF NON-SCIENCE MAJORS WITH COURSE ACTIVITIES THAT ARE RELEVANT TO THEIR OWN SURROUNDINGS AND LIVES
Introductory geoscience courses generally serve as a setting to identify potential majors, but what do we hope to impress upon these students overall, many of who will never again take another geoscience course? The majority of students enrolled in these courses are non-science majors who are fulfilling their general education requirements. Teaching the scientific method and course content is clearly a priority, but these courses also offer the opportunity to connect students to the natural world around them and help them realize the relevancy that many of the course topics have to their own lives. Informal first-day polls from introductory courses in the Geology Department at Pasadena City College indicate that many students enter these courses with a negative attitude towards science, expressing that science is boring, too hard, too quantitative, or requires too much memorization. It is not uncommon for students to express doubt, anxiety, and even fear about successfully completing these introductory level courses. Knowing this predicament, instructors can turn an anxious student’s outlook into an eye-opening experience. Classroom activities and discussions should focus not only on content but also on helping students appreciate that understanding basic concepts in earth science is relevant to their own lives, jobs, family, hobbies, and future. Activities that involve local geoscience issues, such as local water quality, seismic or mass wasting risks, coastal erosion, soil quality, etc., will feel more relevant to students and perhaps stimulate them to continue following such local issues well beyond the semester. A few examples of such course activities include student investigations of the source of their neighborhood’s electricity all the way to the geologic source, seismic risk assessment of historically active local faults and discussions of how limited emergency prevention funds might be distributed, and local quality water issues which can include on-hands chemical analyses of water from students’ homes. Activities focused on more global, but still relevant, topics include jigsaw activities that involve teams debating renewable and nonrenewable energy resources, the politics of Arctic Ocean resources, and our global burgeoning population’s dependence on nonrenewable natural resources.