Looking Back: Intro to Planet Earth

Fall 2015 is over. My students have presented, evaluations have been sent out, and it's over.  Intro to Planet Earth is over—at least until next year.

intro to planet earth GHF volcano

A student's model volcano.

This term seemed to fly by! I loved working with these kids. When planning the class, I chose to use my Intro to Earth Sciences textbook from college. I wasn't entirely sure about it at first, and only assigned a few easy readings to start with. It quickly became apparent, however, that the students were more than up to the task, with many of them doing the optional readings I listed as well! We were racing through the material much faster than I had anticipated, and always finished going through my PowerPoints early, leaving time at the end for the students to "visit with"  my cats for a few minutes, which became a weekly tradition.

There were a few moments of the term that really stood out for me. About halfway through, when we were studying volcanoes, one of the students used some pudding to explain how the viscosity of lava can vary. He also helped me explain the different kinds of volcanoes and how they form (he's really interested in volcanoes, so I think he knew more about them than I did). For the project that week, I invited students to build a model volcano and take pictures or a video of it and send them to me. All the students built volcanoes, but one took the optional assignment and ran with it:

Perhaps my proudest moment of the whole semester was when I graded the third quiz I had given my students. Every single student correctly understood that weather is a day-to-day occurrence, while climate is the long-term trend for a given area. There are U.S. senators who don't seem to know that!

In the very last week, we had my favorite part of every class I've ever taken or taught: student presentations! Each student used their preferred communication method, and explained how their topic, chosen from the list of topics we had discussed in class, impacted or was impacted by human activity. I loved hearing about energy, volcanoes, river dams, ocean garbage patches, and tornadoes from this group of enthusiastic young people!

A slide from a student presentation on the ecological consequences of dams.

A slide from a student presentation on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

I'm excited for the Spring 2016 semester, when I'll be teaching the life-focused companion class, Meet the Biosphere! We'll have a blast meeting our fellow organisms and learning all about life on Earth. Sign up now—there's only a few spots left!

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