Utilizing Urban Environments for Effective Field Experiences

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Stephen E MacAvoy, American Univ, Washington, DC, United States and Karen Knee, American University, Washington, DC, United States
Research surveys suggest that students are demanding more applied field experiences from their undergraduate environmental science programs. For geoscience educators at liberal arts colleges without field camps, university vehicles, or even geology departments, getting students into the field is especially rewarding – and especially challenging. Here, we present strategies that we have used in courses ranging from introductory environmental science for non-majors, to upper level environmental methods and geology classes. Urban locations provide an opportunity for a different type of local "field-work" than would otherwise be available. In the upper-level undergraduate Environmental Methods class, we relied on a National Park area located a 10-minute walk from campus for most field exercises. Activities included soil analysis, measuring stream flow and water quality parameters, dendrochronology, and aquatic microbe metabolism. In the non-majors class, we make use of our urban location to contrast water quality in parks and highly channelized urban streams. Here we share detailed lesson plans and budgets for field activities that can be completed during a class period of 2.5 hours with a $75 course fee, show how these activities help students gain quantitative competency, and provide student feedback about the classes and activities.