Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 56-64

First online:

The development and implementation of an inquiry-based poster project on sustainability in a large non-majors environmental science course

  • Mikaela Schmitt-HarshAffiliated withSchool of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University Email author 
  • , Joseph A. HarshAffiliated withDepartment of Curriculum and Instruction, School of Education, Indiana University

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In the past decade, systematic studies have indicated a significant regression in scientific literacy in nonscience students and students across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines in higher education. Of particular concern, evaluations of introductory lecture-based undergraduate courses have indicated deficiencies in promoting students’ understanding of the role of science and how the scientific community conducts science. In an effort to introduce students to the scientific enterprise, an inquiry-based poster project was developed for a large non-majors environmental science class at a public Midwestern university. Through a term-long project, students (n = 64) worked in a collaborative means to collect and analyze data regarding sustainability topics. Students’ findings were disseminated in a poster presentation during a culminating research symposium that was attended by departmental faculty and university administrators. This paper describes the development and implementation of the inquiry-based project with some preliminary data demonstrating the effectiveness of this activity in promoting student learning and engagement.


Environmental science curricula Inquiry learning Large classrooms Sustainability education