Curricular Enhancement Grant: GEO 108 Class Studies 2011 Japanese Tsunami

19 Apr

Each year CEEDS invites proposals from faculty (and teams of faculty) for modification and enhancement of existing courses that will support the CEEDS mission—to graduate women who excel at integrating knowledge across disciplines in support of environmental decisions and actions. Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting some of the excellent and creative work of the faculty who have utilized these Curricular Enhancement Grants. If you have questions regarding Curricular Enhancement Grants please contact Joanne Benkley at jbenkley@smith.edu.

Another faculty member to have received one of CEED’s Curriculum Enhancement Grants is Geology Professor Sara Pruss. Professor Pruss—who took her GEO 108 class to Fishers Island Sound last month to participate in an oceanographic cruise (see prior posting for photos!)—developed a curriculum in which her students could conduct research on the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and thus be able to consider their classroom acquired knowledge in a more applicable way.

The main message that Professor Pruss wanted to convey to her students was the great extent to which the tsunami impacted areas all over the world, so she set up a curriculum where students would be able to address some of the issues that resulted from such a multifaceted disaster. She broke the class into different groups that focused on specific topics within the larger event. They studied the underlying geology of the disaster (aka what caused the tsunami to occur); the local and global economic consequences; the environmental impacts, including those caused by the Fukushima nuclear crisis; the societal and human impacts; and the specific impacts on the United States. The students then gave presentations and wrote papers based on the research they did, and suggested ways in which the U.S. government could respond most effectively in times of international crisis.

According to Professor Pruss, many of the students were fairly unfamiliar with the tsunami’s hugely devastating impacts. She attributes this to the short focus of the media lens on disasters, which therefore makes her efforts to incorporate current events into a curriculum even more important.

By having this kind of curriculum geared towards a 100-level class, the students that are just beginning their Smith careers are able to gain exposure to complex, multi-faceted issues and thereby develop their critical thinking and responses to these issues as they mature in their learning process.

Be sure to stay tuned for a GEO 108 student’s research findings, which focused on the human and societal impacts of the tsunami.

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