Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum Modules to Infuse Quantitative Literacy and Environmental Geologic Content Into an Online Geology of National Parks Course

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Conference Proceeding

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Geology of the National Parks (GNP) is an introductory-level geology course for non-science majors at many colleges and universities. GNP is designed to teach geology by capitalizing on student interest in renowned parks where geologic features and histories are so spectacularly displayed. At the University of South Florida (USF), GNP is delivered online in a succession of exercises. In the past, most exercises involved virtual field trips and included writing assignments addressing specific questions about the trips. Some of those exercises have now been traded out for self-contained spreadsheet modules that we have created for a new Geology of National Parks Collection in the online Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum (SSAC) Library. The intent of this course modification is two-fold: (1) to bolster the quantitative literacy (QL) dimension, which aligns the course better with a new University general education requirement, and (2) to add environmental-geologic data and analysis, which aligns the course with the National Park Service’s Natural Resource Challenge initiative to integrate inventory and monitoring data with parkland management. Our 20 new SSAC modules were created with cooperation from NPS Research Learning Centers at Point Reyes NS, Yellowstone NP, Great Smoky NP, Indiana Dunes NL, Congaree NP, Mammoth Cave NP, Glacier NP, and the National Capital Parks. QL concepts and skills are the usual suspects: unit conversions, percent increase, ratios, probability, and similar foundational-mathematics topics relevant to a world awash in numbers. Environmental-geologic topics include recurrence interval of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes; probability of water levels submerging a boardwalk; geyser eruption intervals; air quality and visibility in a park known for its views; environmental legacy of copper mining (Upper Peninsula); the USGS coastal vulnerability index vs. geomorphology along a Pacific shoreline; assessing the effect of culvert repair on the ability of salmon to reach their spawning sites; shrinking glaciers; rate of shoreline and dune migration; nitrate and phosphate in an urban creek; areal rate of discharge generation in mountain watersheds.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 42, issue 5, p. 442