GEOLOGY OF YOUR HOME: A CAPSTONE PROJECT IN AN
ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGY COURSE FOR NON-MAJORS
PHILLIPS, Michael A., Division of Natural Science and Mathematics, Illinois Valley Comm. College, 815 N. Orlando Smith Ave., Oglesby, IL 61348, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introductory courses in geology have been changing focus from an overview of the science of geology to specific and applied aspects of the science such as historical, dinosaur, environmental, and disaster geology. These geology courses are designed to appeal to students current interests while delivering information that the students may continue to use long after completion of the course. The challenge is to provide students with the subject matter in a way that it is immediately seen as worth retaining. Having students apply the material covered in class to a project which impacts them personally can help achieve this goal. A term capstone project in which the students examine the environmental geology of the square mile around their home is an example of such a project.
The project runs the entire semester and culminates with the submission of the project as a term paper and the presentation of the findings to the class. At the beginning of the semester, the students are presented with an outline for the project that mirrors the topics covered in the course syllabus. Work on the project is integrated into the lab assignments. The first lab for the course is topographic maps and, as part of the lab activity, the students must identify the 7.5 minute quad on which their home is located and describe the location using the grid systems present on the map. As the semester progresses, students identify hazards and resources, examine human impacts, and develop a plan for future land use. The project is supported with library materials (some held in reserve for the class), lab resources, and a web site with links to relevant databases. Students are required to reference all data and support the written material with maps and figures. Photographs of significant features are encouraged.
Because the information is collected weekly, the students see the relevance immediately and avoid sloppy, last minute data collection. Student feedback, direct and in the form of well-developed projects, has been very positive. Students planning to major in geology see relevance in their required courses, and non-majors find aspects of geology relevant to their personal and professional lives. In addition, the instructor is provided with a picture of what the students have gained from the course and how they see the impact of geology on their lives.