Northeastern Section - 50th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2015)

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


ALEXANDER, Jane, 27th Special Operation Civil Engineer Squadron, 506 North Air Commando Way, Cannon Air Force Base, NM 88103,

Recent changes to the general education curriculum in geology at the College of Staten Island have been introduced to make the classes more relevant and useful to non-science majors. One new course involves a thorough investigation of the Earth’s resources, with around half the semester spent focusing on energy resources, in particular electricity generation. Students with a non-science background generally come into the class with no idea where their electricity is generated, or what natural resources are required. They are often under the false impression that we mostly use renewable energy, and are shocked to find out that more of our electricity is produced by burning coal than any other source.

Rather than simply lecture the students on the statistics of energy production, the initial class time focuses on the mechanisms of electricity production from various sources, the issues of base load and peak power, problems of variability and unpredictability in some renewable resources and the environmental consequences of using each resource. Accompanying lab investigations allow the students to explore the data relating to electricity generation across the USA and the availability of potential resources for the future, with a lesser focus on environmental consequences where appropriate. In several of the labs, the students compile a series of maps showing the use of energy resources and the potential for their future use on a state by state basis. This information is used in conjunction with population data to interpret the reasons why particular resources are more appropriate in one state than another. Anomalies, such as New Jersey’s high ranking in use of solar power, are discussed in terms of their implications for other states. Students then write a series of lab reports, describing and analyzing the data they collected and the maps they compiled. The repeated investigation of different energy resources, with reference to the issues of supply and demand covered in the lectures, has given the students a much deeper understanding of the problems relating to electricity generation in this country. As a result, we are educating students who will be voting based on such issues and who may require such knowledge for future careers that seem unrelated to science.

  • GSA Education Poster 2015.pdf (8.6 MB)