2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 8-1
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


SEMKEN, Steven, School of Earth and Space Exploration and Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, PO Box 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404

Earth Science in Arizona and the Southwest (ESAS), a place-based Earth system science course, is offered at Arizona State University, to increasingly large and diverse groups of majors, non-majors, and professionals (e.g., in-service teachers). This upper-division course is the evolved iteration of one created by the author while at Diné (Navajo Tribal) College, informed by theories of place, sense of place, and place-based learning; by integrated geological, ecological, and humanistic knowledge of the American Southwest; and by the results from ongoing mixed-methods assessment and research.

ESAS is a narrative situated in Southwest landscapes, environments, and communities. Students apply the principles of Earth system science to interpret the geological history of the region; explain its distribution of resources; explore relationships between Earth science and sustainability in this arid, increasingly populous, and deeply challenged region; and enhance their own senses of place. They work with the whole Earth system in the Southwest—physiography, geology, hydrology, climate, and ecology—and use actual specimens, data (e.g., EarthScope), and images (e.g., Google Earth). They make concept sketches and solve quantitative problems. ESAS integrates humanistic ideas on nature and culture in the Southwest (expressed as history, ethnography, poetry, visual arts, music) to foster sense of place and contextualize the science. Field trips bolster lessons with experiential learning in the natural and built environments in the Phoenix area and a regional traverse to Grand Canyon and back. Students complete a place-based creative project in lieu of a final exam.

Course value is maximized by: (1) relevance that allows it to help satisfy a “Science and Society” requirement for BS majors; (2) cross-listing in the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration (for geoscience majors) and School of Sustainability (for sustainability science, policy, and management majors); (3) meeting a core requirement for pre-service Earth science education majors, ensuring that ASU teacher graduates become familiar with the local; (4) few prerequisites (intro geology or physical geography, and first-year math and English) that open it to diverse majors; and (5) adaptability to serve undergraduates, graduates, or professionals.

  • semken14_esas.pdf (5.1 MB)