Northeastern Section - 54th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 2-4
Presentation Time: 9:10 AM


HLUCHY, Michele M., Geology and Environmental Studies, Alfred University, 1 Saxon Drive, Alfred, NY 14802

I have used two strategies at Alfred University to help students relate to and feel connected with water issues in a class for first year students entitled “The Water Planet”. One strategy is to employ a modified version of “The Lifestyle Project” (Kirk and Thomas, SERC and JGE, 2003) where students keep track of their water use, both actual and virtual water, over the course of the semester, culminating in a summary paper and a “persuasion” paper. The second strategy is to involve students in fund-raising activities for a water-related charity, such as Haiti Outreach (to raise money to install drinking water wells in Haiti) or Dig Deep’s Navajo Water Project (to raise money to install running water and electricity in homes on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico).

Many students, particularly first year students, are not familiar with the concept of virtual water. Keeping track of their virtual and actual water consumption is an eye opener to them. As part of the exercise, they also are introduced to researching virtual water contents of various foods, fuels, etc. and they are forced to repeatedly perform calculations, particularly unit conversions, something most of them desperately need to practice. The two papers at the end of the semester give students experience writing a technical summary paper and writing in different style, a “persuasive” style, urging a friend to change their lifestyle and backing up their ideas with data from their own experiences during the semester.

Fund raising for a water-related charity has also proven to have a variety of benefits. Having a specific area of concern, for example a less developed country such as Haiti or a community that experiences water poverty such as the Navajo Nation, allows me to refer to specific geographic regions and geologic terrains when explaining hydrogeological concepts. For example, when describing climate and weather, where it rains and why, the future effects of climate change, etc. the southwestern U.S. is a prime example to use (Navajo Water Project). The projects also give students opportunities to explain the issues of concern to members of the public during fund-raising events. Finally, the fund-raising activities get these first year students out into the community and at community events, making them more connected to the campus and greater community.