Learning Modules

Learning Modules

Learning Modules for Environmental Humanities

This page is the home of the environmental humanities learning modules that Faculty Fellows have developed over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year. These modules are intended to include all of the materials that a college faculty member would need to introduce humanistic and social science content into STEM courses on environmental issues.

Check back often for updates, but in the meantime, explore some of the modules-in-development that appear below. Creators of all of the modules have provided several keywords, which you can search using the "find" feature of your web browser. For example if you are looking for humanistic approaches to evolution, you can search for "evolution" and modules with that keyword associated will show up.

Algae Grows the Future

Creator: Dr. Kauser Jahan, Professor & Department Head, Civil & Environmental Engineering
Keywords: algae, water, engineering, problem-based learning
Description: (this project was developed with additional support from the National Science Foundation; the following description of the module comes from the project entry on NSF's website: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1610164This project addresses the need to cultivate engineers' holistic and critical understanding of the global, economic, societal and environmental impacts of engineering solutions. In this project, algae provides the basis for a collection of inquiry-based educational activities that bring together science, engineering and humanities to foster an understanding of the broader context of engineering work. A series of cost-effective, multidisciplinary, adaptable and transferrable hands-on experiments will be developed to introduce engineering and science principles through algae's versatility as a renewable fuel source, tool for greenhouse gas mitigation, and its role in the treatment of wastewater. Additional synergistic activities will be incorporated through introduction of ethical, social, and environmental issues related to these problems and analysis of proposed solutions. The three main objectives of the project are: (1) to recruit and retain students in STEM degree programs, (2) to increase self-confidence and self-esteem of students from underrepresented groups in STEM fields, and (3) to develop educational methods that explore uses of algae to address global engineering challenges. 
Module Resources: all module materials are available through Dr. Jahan's website, http://users.rowan.edu/~jahan/hunter/algae_workshop/algae_resources.htm
Related projectThe Water Project @Rowan Universityhttps://rowanwaterproject.weebly.com

Contingency, Evolution, and the Nature of History

CreatorDr. William Carrigan, Professor & Dept. Chair, History
Keywords: evolution, biology, world history, environmental history
Description: This module explores the nature of history.   Popular perceptions of history rely upon two flawed ideas.  First, employing a naive interpretation of the theory of evolution, many believe that history is a slow march of progress toward more complex species and, after the development of humans, more complex human societies.  Second, another prevalent attitude is that the history of life contains patterns that repeat and can be predicted if studied. Instead, this module emphasizes the role of luck and contingency in the history of life both before and after the arrival of homo sapiens.  Beginning with an exploration of why these popular theories persist, the module will explore contingency through such critical moments as the Cambrian Explosion, the end of the dinosaurs, and moments after the arrival of homo sapiens such as the fall of Carthage, the Chinese decision to end its ocean-going exploration before the discovery of the Americas, and even the failed assassination attempt of Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1939.  The result will be a richer more nuanced understanding of the nature of history and of change over time.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works, including narrated slideshows: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/8/

Are Humans Natural?

CreatorDr. Nathan Ruhl, Lecturer, Biological Sciences
Keywords: nature, natural, humans, environment, evolution, ecology, biology
Description: This learning module is a three-part series of learning activities focused around the following themes:

  1. The words “nature” and “natural” mean different things to different people;
  2. Humans and other species both effect and are affected by the environment; 
  3. Most “human-traits” are not unique to humans and are adaptive traits shared by other species.
The larger goal of this set of learning activities is to promote a holistic/equalistic view of the human-environment relationship by leveraging humanistic content to support learning goals in both introductory post-secondary courses and general education courses (secondary or post-secondary) in the biological sciences.  The learning activities in this module are designed to be accessible to students from diverse educational backgrounds by virtue of being scalable in difficulty and drawing largely from student’s pre-existing personal experience.  In addition to being scalable in difficulty, this module is scalable for varying implementation times and teaching methods.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/7/


Brownfield Redevelopment: Communities in Transition

CreatorDr. Mahbubur Meenar, Assistant Professor, Geography, Planning & Sustainability
Keywords: brownfield, hazardous waste, community planning, industrial history, redevelopment, environmental justice, gentrification
Description: This learning module focuses on two broad topics — hazardous waste and brownfields — and is suitable for courses in environmental and sustainability planning, environmental engineering, environmental science, environmental studies, and community development. The first topic explains different types of hazardous waste and challenges associated with them, discusses landfills and Superfund sites, presents consequences of Superfund sites using historical case studies, and finally introduces Cradle-to-Grave hazardous waste management systems. The second topic focuses on the history and types of brownfields in the USA, their disadvantages and opportunities, as well as their redevelopment options. Using text, field visits, and a series of documentary clips and videos, this learning module explains why students need to enhance their understanding of hazardous waste management and brownfield redevelopment from the viewpoints of environmental justice, community development, and gentrification.
Module ResourcesHosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/3/


Thinking through the Future of Climate Change with Fiction

Creator: Dr. Ted Howell, Instructor, Writing Arts
Keywords: climate change, fiction, Anthropocene, climate modeling, apocalypse, philosophy of science, climate change communication, science writing
Description: What happens when scientists use fiction to envision our future in a world radically altered by climate change? Who is most thoroughly to blame for our inability to sufficiently react to the horrific, even apocalyptic, future we’re told is coming for our children and grandchilden? This module dives into these questions via the short book The Collapse of Western Civilization, written by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. In this short, reader-friendly essay, Oreskes, a science writer who permanently changed how we talk about climate change, and Conway, a NASA historian, write a “history of the future” from the vantage point of 2093. The book offers a unique perspective on climate change and the future we’re heading towards by using fictional narrative, rather than relying on models and graphs, and by adopting a tone equally shocking to readers accustomed to thinking about climate change in terms of numbers and to readers who envision our future as an apocalyptic wasteland. Of particular interest is the book’s frank discussion of the failure of scientists to communicate their findings with the public and their commitment to hallowed principles like statistical significance and the burden of proof. Ultimately, the book and the module prompt fascinating discussions about what Oreskes and Conway call “the most startling aspect” of their story: “the people of Western civilization knew what was happening to them but were unable to stop it. Knowledge did not translate into power.”  
Module Resources: The module includes slideshows that introduce the book and generate classroom discussion, links to supplementary videos and short readings, and an easily adaptable assignment sheet that asks students to consider the strengths and weakness of various methods of communicating information about climate change. Module materials are hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/4/
Related Project: Be sure to investigate NEH Faculty Fellow Ted Howell's work on teaching the emerging field of climate change fiction, or 'cli-fi': teachingclifi.net


Watershed Walking: Experiential Tools for Connecting People, Place and Water

CreatorDr. Jen Kitson, Assistant Professor, Geography, Planning & Sustainability
Keywords: walking, watershed, fieldwork, hydroregionalism, environmental pilgrimage, ecology, sensory
Description: This learning module presents a variety of ways to consider the role of walking as environmental methodology in courses with existing fieldwork components. Walking is a mobile practice and form of dwelling. The footprint is a powerful metaphor and narrative device expressing the lived scale and pace of the human body, including the accumulation of incremental personal stories into public histories (“one step at a time,” “one foot in front of the other”). Footprints also form the basis for human conceptions of empathy (“being in someone else’s shoes,” “following in someone’s footsteps”) and place-based environmental impacts (ecological footprint, hydroregion), both of which are integral to public discourse in a pluralistic society. A series of readings and walking-based activities will engage the human body and imagination through walking within the watershed (the land area into which rain falls and streams drain) in exploring connections between people, place and water.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/6/


Sustainability as a Moral Problem

Creator: Dr. David Clowney, Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies
Keywords: sustainability, sustainable development, collective character, collective responsibility, collective character, environmental justice, ethics.
Description: This module explores the ethics of sustainability. “Sustainability” has become a buzz-word for any kind of environmentally positive activity. The word inherits its special meaning from the term “sustainable development,” introduced in Our Common Future, the 1987 UN commissioned Brundtland Report, as a way of describing the joint goals of economic development for poorer countries and environmental preservation/restoration. In the words of that report, sustainable development is development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” and is constrained by “the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities.” Sustainability is frequently thought of in technical terms: how many people will the planet hold, how can we reduce our environmental impact while living decent lives. This module presents sustainability as first and foremost a moral rather than a technical challenge. It is a moral challenge for social as well as personal ethics. That is, it is a challenge for societies, institutions and governments as well as for individuals. The module provides students with a simple framework for thinking about moral issues. It also guides them in considering the unique challenges posed by collective moral problems of this kind, where the effect of individual actions seem inconsequential, while their aggregated effect is of profound moral importance. These challenges are intensified in this case, where issues of justice and moral considerability arise for our relation to future as well contemporary human generations, to citizens of other nations as well as our own, and to non-human as well as human life. They are further intensified by our current global reliance on unsustainable use of energy and resources, and on unsustainable production of waste. Finally, they are intensified by the apparent unsustainability of current forms of economic organization. The module features a variety of readings, videos, role-plays and activities designed to allow students to explore ways of meeting these challenges.
Module ResourcesHosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/5/


Problems, Solutions, and Opportunities for Engineers and Scientists

CreatorDrs. Katie Barrillas and Stephen Fernandez, Lecturers, Experiential Engineering Education
Keywords: engineering, sustainable development, career preparation
Description: In this module, students spend time reflecting on major problems facing society today (ex: poverty, hunger, health, education, clean water/sanitation, etc). They then compare their findings to the major societal challenges identified by the United Nations through the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the National Academy of Engineering - if the class is an engineering class - or the National Academy of Sciences - if the class is a science class. Finally, the students reflect on the major career paths for students graduating with engineering/science degrees and then, more specifically, for students graduates from their college and/or university (Rowan University College of Engineering, in our case). Students then reflect on the degree to which companies that are likely to employ them, are engaged in solving the problems they previously identified. Finally, students identify other non-conventional careers where they can address some of the problems they identified.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/13/


Integrating Humanities into Environmental Engineering Classrooms

CreatorDr. Sarah Bauer, Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
Keywords: engineering, waste management, waste water, historical context of engineering
Description: In this module, students will be exposed to the broader context of several major components within the area of environmental engineering by integrating humanities into the environmental engineering classroom. This module includes lecture content pertaining to the areas of (1) solid and hazardous waste management and (2) management of air pollution. This module will help provide students with a background of these subject areas by: introducing students to the history of waste management practices and regulations in the United States and exposing students to various major air pollution episodes throughout history and the implications air pollution has on human and environmental health. This module is best used prior to lecture content regarding the engineering principles and technologies associated with these areas of environmental engineering. Through various lecture content included in this module, students will be exposed to the cultural, ideological, political and historical context in which environmental problems occur. This material was created as part of an upper-level introductory course in an undergraduate environmental engineering curriculum.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/12/


Why Do Frames Matter?

Creator: Samantha Crown, Lecturer, Communication Studies
Keywords: news media, journalism, environmental framing
Description: In this assignment, students examine the coverage of a single event from two different points of view. They analyze the frames used in each report and determine how the journalist uses those frames to construct meaning and encourages a way of thinking about an environmental issue. What frames are represented in the reports? How might this also impact what is included in the report and how a journalist represents environmental issues?
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/11/


Exploring Environmental Justice through Listening: An Environmental Design Case Study in Camden, NJ

CreatorDrs. Jennifer Kitson (Assistant Professor, Geography, Planning & Sustainability) and Ted Howell (Lecturer, Writing Arts) 
Keywords: environmental justice, planning, redevelopment, cities, infrastructure
Description: This learning module is designed to introduce humanities questions into environmental engineering, planning, technology, and science courses. This module simulates cooperative and interdisciplinary environmental problem solving in an urban, industrial neighborhood which faced environmental injustice in the past. Using a neighborhood case study, students consider the historical context, five different stakeholder perspectives, and environmental justice dimensions of this community as integral to their technical design proposals related to one or more of the following topics: urban park development, waste and stormwater management, brownfield redevelopment and living shorelines. Through exposing students to research data obtained through humanities methods, such as environmental history, community planning, and oral history, this learning module tasks students with twinning social and technical objectives in environmental design and engineering solutions. Active listening activities using audio files are assigned to meaningfully engage students with the lived experiences and perspectives of environmental professionals, government agencies, and community members in the past and present as part of proposing sustainable (future) solutions.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/10/


Exploring Environmental Issues Using Eco Art

CreatorDrs Mahbubur Meenar (Assistant Professor, Geography, Planning & Sustainability) and Ted Howell (Lecturer, Writing Arts)
Keywords: ecological art, environmental art, environmental planning
Description: Ecological and environmental art, or “Eco Art,” describes works of art that engage issues related to the environment, ecology, and/or sustainability. Broadly, Eco Art serves as a compelling means of conceiving humanity’s relationship to the natural world. In part because ecological topics such as climate change, extinction, and pollution are dominated by scientific discourse, Eco Art offers new pathways for artistic expression and for understanding ecological issues. In the words of art writer Linda Weintraub, Eco Art “stands out from the din of environmental warnings, policies, and campaigns because its content is enriched by artistic imagination and its strategies are emboldened by artistic license.” The concept of Eco Art can be used to provide initial exposure to various environmental issues, including but not limited to climate change, environmental justice, environmental ethics, water quality and quantity, air quality, waste management, recycling, toxic land redevelopment, green infrastructure, and environmental design.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/17/


Are Humans Natural? Part 2: Exploring Human-Nature Relational Values and the Balance of Nature

CreatorDr. Nathan Ruhl, Lecturer, Biological Sciences
Keywords: evolution, biology, human-environment relationships
Description: This learning module is part of a series of modules that seeks to help students develop human-nature relational values. Relational values are more readily developed when the methods employed reference species/environments/landscapes/situations that students are familiar with already and may encounter during their everyday lives. In this activity students are asked to consider whether nature is in balance. The idea that nature is in balance extends deep into human history, but modern scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that nature is not in balance. Despite scientific evidence, the perception that nature is stable or in balance persists in human culture. This activity challenges misconceptions about how nature changes over time, demonstrates that this fallacy extends far back into human history, and explores our current scientific understanding.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/16/


Are Humans Natural? Part 3: Nature Relatedness and the American Dream

CreatorDr. Nathan Ruhl, Lecturer, Biological Sciences and Taylor Dobson (undergraduate student at Rowan)
Keywords: evolution, biology, human-environment relationships
Description: This learning module is part of a series of activities designed to encourage students to develop relational values with nature. In this activity, students reflect on their relationship with nature and consider the impact of their plans/goals for the future on the environment and the larger goal of sustainability. Students evaluate their relationship with nature through the Nature Relatedness (NR-6) Test (Nisbet and Zelenski, 2013), compare their NR-6 score to others, consider how their goals (“dreams”) are related to the American Dream, and speculate on the attainability of sustainability given our individually driven goals for the future. This activity challenges students to consider whether their individual dreams for the future are compatible with a sustainable interaction between humans and nature.
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/15/

Are Humans Natural? Part 4: Human-Nature Relational Values through Time

CreatorDr. Nathan Ruhl, Lecturer, Biological Sciences and Sirena Pimenta (undergraduate student at Rowan)
Keywords: evolution, biology, human-environment relationships
Description: This activity assumes students have a background in evolutionary theory, so students without such a background should have additional instruction prior to conducting this part of the activity. Consider a discussion of mechanisms that drive evolution, including genetic drift, natural selection, and gene flow. Evolution is a change in gene frequencies in a population over the course of several generations.
Genes are the genetic code controlling many individual characteristics or traits, so the frequency at which genes occur dictates, in large part, the frequency at which individual characteristics or traits exist in a population. The frequency of a gene can increase or decrease due to selection (including natural, sexual, and/or artificial selection), genetic drift, gene flow, and/or genetic mutation. Natural selection is the evolutionary process whereby certain individuals have traits that are better suited for their environment, and thus have a better chance at reproductive success compared to other members of the same species. Over many generations, selection favors genotypes with the most advantageous traits and other genotypes die off, causing the gene frequency of a population to change and evolution to occur.
Module Resources: Coming soon to Rowan Digital Works!


Environmental Cost vs. Health Benefit of Radioisotope Usage in Medicine

CreatorDr. Nicholas Whiting, Assistant Professor, Physics & Astronomy / Molecular & Cellular Biosciences
Keywords: nuclear medicine, radioactivity, STEM ethics
Description: This module is developed for implementation in a class that discusses the use of radioisotopes in a biomedical setting. The inspiration is a class I teach (Advanced Biomedical Instrumentation), which covers the use of radioisotopes as tracers in biomedical imaging (scintigraphy, SPECT, PET, etc.). The goal of the module is to go further in depth regarding the environmental impact of the use of radioisotopes (from their generation to their disposal—keeping track of any radioactive byproducts), and compare that to the potential for benefits in the quality and/or quantity of a patient’s life (does using the radioisotopes allow patients to live longer, fuller lives). 
Module Resources: Hosted on Rowan Digital Works: https://rdw.rowan.edu/oer/14/