An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching Environmental Science to Non-STEM Majors


  • N.J. Walker George Mason University; Department of Environmental Science and Policy



Teaching environmental science to non-STEM majors provides several challenges. EVPP 110 (Ecosphere I: Introduction to Environmental Science) has no pre-requisites, so students come with different levels of previous science education. Reasons for enrollment differ: some students having a strong interest in the subject, while others enrolled to fulfill degree requirements. In teaching the lab section of this course, I emphasized the connections between natural science, social science and cultural science to increase student engagement. Goals were 1) demonstrate that conservation goes beyond science and is at the nexus of many disciplines; and 2) show students how this material relates to their own field. One method was to create extra credit field trip opportunities to places like Huntley Meadows Park, a wetland that was once slated to become a waste disposal site. To receive credit, students wrote short papers on their experiences, plants and animals observed, the history of the park and connections to conservation. Guest speakers from GMU organizations were invited into the lab, including those from the Rooftop Greenhouse and the Honey Bee Initiative, to offer tours and volunteer opportunities. This work has benefitted my own Ph.D. research by helping me tailor content for non-scientists, including policymakers, NGOs and the private sector. This is particularly relevant to my efforts to conserve American eel (Anguilla rostrata), which is not usually a charismatic species. I recommend other graduate students consider implementing an interdisciplinary approach to teaching core courses to take into account the cultural and intellectual diversity of the Mason community.

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Author Biography

N.J. Walker, George Mason University; Department of Environmental Science and Policy

N.J. Walker is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of environmental science and policy at George Mason University.





4:15pm-5:30pm POSTER SESSION (Group A- 4:15-4:45pm)