Living the Volcano: A First-Year Study Abroad Experience to Santorini, Greece
Friday, 19 December 2014
Over the last decade, enrollment in Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Geologic Disasters (GLG112) class has grown to its current 840 students in 7 sections per semester (4% of NAU enrollment). Given this large audience composed of >50% freshmen, the course curriculum was re-designed in 2012 using standards set by NAU’s First Year Learning Initiative (FYLI), which seeks to increase academic success early in college. FYLI pedagogical principles include active-learning, frequent feedback, low-stakes assessments, and increased guidance from professors & peer teaching assistants (PTAs). As a result of the successes measured in FYLI courses, we launched a FYLI study abroad experience in 2014. We posed the question, “How can an early-career study abroad experience further develop the attitudes, skills, & behaviors necessary for success?” The pioneering program was NAU in Greece: The Cataclysmic Eruption of Santorini Volcano. Enrollment was limited to freshman & sophomore students who have taken GLG112 (or equivalent). The 3-week program took 9 students, 1 PTA, & 1 faculty member to Santorini (via Athens, 2 days). A detailed itinerary addressed a set of disciplinary & non-disciplinary learning outcomes. Student learning about Santorini volcano and the tectonic setting & hazards of the Aegean Sea occurred on the go – on ferries & private boat trips and during hiking, snorkeling, and swimming. Classroom time was limited to 1 hr/day and frequent assessments were employed. Student products included a geologic field notebook, travel journal, and 3 blog posts pertaining to geologic hazards & life on Santorini. Geologic disasters are ideal topics for early career study abroad experiences because the curriculum is place-based. Student learning benefits immensely from interacting with the land & local populations, whose lives are affected daily by the dangers of living in such geologically hazardous environments. The needs of early career students are unique, however, and must be addressed while planning. Planning should consider (1) location & lodging choices, (2) number of places visited, (3) group travel, (4) behavioral standards, (5) methods of early and frequent feedback, (6) timing, number, & style of assessments and writing assignments, and (7) multi-tiered instructional methods.