EDINBORO ENVIRONMENTAL ASSAULT MISSION: A MODEL FOR A PLACE-BASED, FIELD-DRIVEN EXERCISE TO CONNECT INTRODUCTORY STUDENTS WITH THEIR LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL SURROUNDINGS
For an introductory environmental geology course, I’ve created a place-based exercise where students document and assess the environmental underbelly of their local community. The exercise constitutes a small-scale research project with field, data, synthesis, and reporting components. Students, working as teams of two, pick an environmental topic pertinent to the local town, university or outlying area. Campus grounds, neighborhoods, commercial, agricultural or industrial activities, waste or water treatment practices, water or energy resources, and aspects of the local Earth system that especially impact place-specific human activities are all targets.
Teams first go into the field to hone their observational skills. There, they describe the variables, issues, and concerns related to their topic. They are instructed to write field notes, take photos, focus on the myriad natural processes at work, and comment on how humans interact or are impacted. If they encounter measures being taken to address problems, they’re to document these as well. Teams may contrast results from their setting to other locales or provide a greater context to their findings. An additional course of action is for teams to interview a local expert who is well versed in their topic. Many people in the community are knowledgeable and willing to talk with students. After fieldwork is conducted, teams write a short (~3-page) report on their topic, complete with appendices of photos, figures, tables, and information sources. Students describe their topic and propose plans of action to alleviate or remedy the concerns related to their topic to benefit the community. With their report serving as an outline, teams then design and give a short (~10-minute) presentation on their findings.
After all teams have reported, we then consider the community’s environmental layout and its most pressing environmental issues. In essence, we address the controls and issues affecting the local environment as revealed by the teams. This serves as an opportunity to discuss what the community is doing, what actions, plans, and policies are in place to benefit the community, and what can be done to raise community awareness and promote action. Ultimately, with this project design, students build many non-content skills as well as learn about their local surroundings.