The University of South Dakota received a one-year grant to incorporate earth science and sustainability issues into a variety of academic departments.
The $43,620 “Sustainable Rivers: Integrating Earth Science & Sustainability Across the Curriculum” grant will allow participating professors to take their classes to the Missouri River for various demonstrations.
Thirteen different classes representing 11 different departments are participating in the program.
The grant is a part of the InTeGrate project, a National Science Foundation program that aims to educate the public on geoscience and its relation to societal issues.
Earth science professor Mark Sweeney said this integration is an important addition to student curriculum. He said the program’s primary function is to show students how science relates to other topics such as English, history and economics.
“As someone who has been teaching science at the university for a while, I saw two things: one, I really felt that we could do a better job of science literacy, and two, to show connections between classes,” Sweeney said.
Participating classes will give students the chance to experience more on-site learning.
“There’s a lot of faculty that already have research expertise in the river, and we wanted to do more place-based learning,” sustainability professor Meghann Jarchow said. “For example, my sustainability and society class is partnering with Nebraska Indian College to go to Gavins Point Dam and look at the river on each side of the dam to look at the erosion.”
Junior Becca Torres, a sustainability student, said she’s looking forward to doing hands-on learning at the river.
“I am extremely excited. I want to specialize in marine conservation so this is a big step to learn more about water resources and different ways we can utilize it respectfully,” Torres said. “This also opens a door to explore the environment aspect of sustainability aside from that of the economic, political and social to really understand what brings all these branches together.”
Earth science and sustainability classes will be taking field trips throughout the semester along with a few other classes. One of the more unique classes, elementary education, will demonstrate how to teach K-12 students about river safety, Jarchow said.
“There are a number of classes that are participating and some of the departments will be doing field trips and others won’t,” Sweeney said. “The whole idea is to see how we can integrate the science of rivers into different classes.”
Jarchow said most faculty in the program will be coming from a non-scientific discipline. Although the grant will only last for a year, both Sweeney and Jarchow hope the incorporation of science in other departments will continue to spread.
“We hope that if this is successful, they will continue to integrate this into the future and that each of these faculty will be advocates in their departments to spread the word to other faculty,” Sweeney said.
(Photo: University of South Dakota faculty members attended a workshop in May at Ponca State Park for the Sustainable Rivers project. The group stopped to read a sign along the Missouri National Recreation River. Submitted Photo / The Volante)