|The Election Project: Including
Research into Candidates’ Positions on Environmental Issues as Part of
an Environmental Science Course
PHILLIPS, Michael A., Division of Natural Science and Business, Illinois Valley Comm. College, 815 N. Orlando Smith Ave., Oglesby, IL 61348, firstname.lastname@example.org
key words: education, environment, policy, election, issues
Critical thinking and application are important parts of every science course, but many undergraduates are unable to meet these goals. These students also fail to see how the political system relates to them or the issues they care about, and so they stay away from the polls on election day. The election cycle provides an excellent opportunity to link course topics to real world issues.
Every two years, students in "The Global Environment" and "Environmental Geology" work on small research projects related to the upcoming election. The projects begin when the class develops a short list of issues discussed in the course, of concern to the students, and likely to be covered in the campaign. Each student is assigned a candidate who will be on their ballot or the ballot of one of their classmates; the student must find the candidate's positions on each of the issues on the class list. Students are provided with web links to general information on the election (such as Project Vote Smart) but must find candidate_specific information on their own. Students summarize and present their findings to the class during the week prior to the election, and posters are placed in a hallway display area for everyone at the college to view.
When students research and evaluate candidates' positions on topics covered in class, they learn to relate course material they are concerned about to current events while critically evaluating political policies. Some students find very little in the way of substantive information, while others find detailed position papers or talk directly to their candidate. In several instances, candidates have visited the classroom to discuss the issues. Through this project, students begin to see how they are affected by political decisions, they discover the importance of understanding key issues, and they start to become engaged in the process.