GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 108-7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


HUMPHREYS, Robin R., Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston, 202 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC 29424

General education environmental geology courses at liberal arts and sciences colleges have many challenges to overcome. Most of our students range from mildly interested to openly hostile with respect climate change. Integrating relatable projects throughout the semester helps students develop the expertise needed to be able to synthesize complex scientific concepts, such as sustainability and climate change.

Making the topic of climate change pertinent and concrete, rather than vague and/or politically motivated, is critical to engaging our population of non-science students. Incorporating sustainability and climate change concepts into active learning activities is an effective method of engaging student interest. Establishing an open learning environment begins with integrating a cooperative learning approach that requires the participation of all team members in peer-reviewed learning, and a problem-based case study approach that primarily relies on projects distilled from global current events. Through a series of investigative assignments students work together to examine increasingly complex subjects as the semester progresses to learn and apply content in context. For example, the final semester project in my environmental geology courses culminates in the development of a poster presentation on climate change and global water issues, which includes not only application of geologic concepts, but also integrates global issues such as sustainability, social injustice, equality, and poverty. These projects have been successful in providing opportunities for our population of science-phobic students to take ownership of learning and expand their knowledge on sensitive global issues and climate change.

Our introductory geology classes are often the last science class many students will ever have. Employing a variety of active learning strategies that integrates analysis and synthesis of complex climate change concepts helps introductory non-science majors develop into more scientifically-literate citizens.