Earth Systems Science (40) According to the National Science Foundation's 1996 report "Shaping the Future," the overarching goal for undergraduate students is to directly experience the methods and processes of inquiry. At present, at many colleges non-science majors tend to meet general education science requirements by taking lower division content-based science courses designed for majors. Students in these types of general education classes seldom have the opportunity to experience open-ended inquiry geared towards developing scientific reasoning or to investigate locally significant, scientifically relevant questions at the earth systems level. We need a curricular framework that can be used as the foundation for understanding and analyzing scientific concepts at the earth systems level which can be incorporated into the earliest stages undergraduate education. Our vision of a science curriculum for non-majors is one that synthesizes scientific concepts and reasoning using standard industry technology and computer programs within the context of earth system processes. This project focuses on bringing technology to the general education science classroom. An interdisciplinary technology-based curriculum is being designed and assessed, which engages undergraduate non-science majors in earth systems level inquiry and research. Recent work at Portland State University in their general education program (UNST) has shown that Geographic Information Systems can be an engaging and useful tool for teaching earth systems to undergraduate general education students. The problem encountered though is the lack of a unified database of coverages for watersheds that is tied to an easily understandable curriculum. Until now, instructors searched for then clipped individual coverages and worked the available information into classroom activities. Our objectives are to research, select and geo-reference appropriate environmental "coverages" within the Columbia River Basin and to produce and evaluate a curriculum to determine its ability to advance students towards a systematic understanding of watersheds and water quality. The outcome will be a CD ROM with appropriate coverages, data sets, modular instructions and a teacher's curriculum. The Columbia River Basin (CRB) was chosen because there are a series of general education courses within UNST that center around the CRB and a large target audience for testing the curriculum within PSU and region wide. Upon successful completion of this phase of the project, similar coverages and curriculum can be developed for national dissemination for additional large watersheds within North America through partnerships with other institutions.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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Herbert Levitan
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Portland State University
United States
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