Free course materials on Critical Zone Science

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - 12:45

If you are looking for ways to expand your department’s current course offerings, or if you are looking for new materials to incorporate in existing classes, consider using instructor materials from this 7-module, 15-week course on Critical Zone Science:  https://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/teaching_materials/critical_zone/index.html

These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.

This course introduces and examines the Critical Zone (CZ), Earth's permeable layer that extends from the top of vegetation to the bottom of the fresh groundwater zone. It is a constantly evolving boundary layer where rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms interact to regulate the landscape and natural habitats, and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources, including our food production and water quality. CZ science is a highly interdisciplinary and international pursuit that depends upon effective and informed trans-disciplinary science. This course focuses on the large quantity of interdisciplinary data available from the existing National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded CZ Observatories (CZO) and utilizes readings, discussions, presentations, and cutting-edge learning activities.

Materials from this course can be used to teach an entire course on the Critical Zone or as singular activities or modules within other existing courses on related topics. Topics covered in the curriculum include Critical Zone Background, Methods of Critical Zone Science, Critical Zone Architecture and Evolution, Land-atmosphere exchange, water transfer through the Critical Zone, Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry, and Humans in the Critical Zone.

This course is easily adaptable to different structures, formats, and schedules. The total amount of resources made available for this Introduction to the Critical Zone course is more than needed for one semester-long course. However, this is an intentional design. The authors aim to provide sufficient resources so that the instructor has flexibility in tailoring and fine-tuning the course to their expertise and the level and interest of the students. Therefore, no instructor should aim to use and complete all of the resources and activities made available. The diversity of resources ensures that by opting to omit certain resources and activities, that the overall structure and integrity of the curriculum will remain and students will have a complete introduction to Critical Zone science.

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