Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Student Evaluation of Cities' Hazards and Benefits for Company Relocation: An Introductory Geology Class Project in Educated Citizenship

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Student Evaluation of Cities' Hazards and Benefits for Company Relocation: An Introductory Geology Class Project in Educated Citizenship

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Directed inquiry is used in an introductory geology class at Northern Kentucky University as a means for introducing students to the role of geology in community politics while also teaching students critical thinking skills, data analysis skills and group interaction skills. Students are instructed that they will be evaluating the geologic setting of a city of their choice in order to provide a recommendation to a company that is considering relocating to their city. Through the project, students must evaluate the geologic hazards and benefits of the city and present a summary and recommendation based on their findings. The project is divided into three subprojects throughout the semester - plate tectonics, geologic history and topographic setting. For each subproject, students are provided a data set that they must interpret and summarize in a written report. The results of these subprojects are used to characterize the geologic hazards and benefits of the city that the students present in a final PowerPoint presentation. Student knowledge is assessed through questions on the final exam that address similar scenarios in other cities, in order to determine whether they can apply the concepts learned in the project to new situations. As presented, this project is suitable for relatively small classes (approximately 40 students). In larger lecture classes, the project can be modified as a report or a series of assignments.

INTRODUCTION

As with many universities, introductory geology courses at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) are populated dominantly by non-science majors, often in their junior or senior year. Even though students in this course are not science majors and typically have no background in the earth sciences, they are all currently or all will be contributing members of society, making decisions regarding their homes, their businesses and their community structures.

Traditional introductory geology courses typically serve two primary purposes: 1) To train geology students and prepare them for advanced courses and 2) to provide a service to the university in the form of a general education course. These two goals often work against each other, creating friction in the courses and some degree of frustration for both the instructor and the student.

Through an innovative approach to teaching introductory geology, students at Northern Kentucky University are directed toward an understanding of how geology fits into their roles as citizens and provides them with an avenue for developing skills including critical thinking, data analysis and scientific application. This approach incorporates a semester-long project that will introduce students to both the basics of geology and to the role of geology in community politics, fulfilling the role of the general education course (Northern Kentucky University, 2006) in a direct and meaningful way.

In this project, students are assigned the task of evaluating a city for the geologic hazards and benefits of locating a ousiness in this city. The business can be of the students choosing and the students work in groups of four to complete the project. The project is divided into three subprojects, with each project addressing an aspect of geology related to their city - tectonics, geologic history and topography. The students then combine information from the three subprojects to evaluate hazards and benefits of their city and make a recommendation to the company. Final projects are presented as oral presentations at the ena of the semester.

The goal of this project is to encourage the development of critical thinking and data analysis skills and to promote the application of geologic knowledge to societal issues. Through the process of interpreting provided data sets, compiling the data and interpreting the geologic hazards ana benefits, students are then able to connect their geologic knowledge obtained in the classroom with real life applications. …

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