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Supporting interdisciplinary teaching about the Earth with the InTeGrate website

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Increasing the number of undergraduate students that are ready to creatively, effectively, and ethically address today’s grand, Earth-related, societal challenges (NRC: National Academy Press 2001) is one of the central goals of the NSF-funded InTeGrate STEP Center. This cannot be done from a single disciplinary perspective, but requires a more holistic understanding of Earth systems in combination with expertise from disciplines that study social systems. It requires effective communication, understanding, and cooperation among Earth, marine, atmospheric, and climate scientists as well as political scientists, economists, engineers, humanists, and others. The InTeGrate website addresses the need for this more holistic approach by helping faculty in any discipline bridge silos and address Earth-related societal challenges with their students. The project website provides effective, tested, community-contributed strategies for incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives, example interdisciplinary teaching activities and course descriptions, and sections addressing teaching specific interdisciplinary topics and themes. It also reflects and addresses audiences at various scales within the InTeGrate community, including perspectives from faculty, college and university program chairs, and employers. The website contains advice and examples of a spectrum of ways to build connections between disciplines, from starting small with a guest speaker in a single course to a fully linking curriculum. Example teaching activities and course descriptions give concrete ideas of how various interdisciplinary teaching strategies play out in the classroom. Results and recommendations from workshop participants provide a way to jump into the middle of rich, interdisciplinary discussions, including environmental justice, risk and resilience, and system thinking.

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This paper reports the results from workshops and efforts funded as part of the InTeGrate STEP Center supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant DUE 1125331. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This paper reports on the work guided and executed by the InTeGrate leadership team in collaboration with the project staff. Of central importance are the members of the leadership team who organized workshops discussed herein (David Blockstein, Anne Egger, and John Taber). We are also indebted to the organizers of the partnership workshops (Dave Mogk, Katryn Weise). These organizers were in every case assisted by multiple workshop leaders who were essential to the success of the workshop, collection of materials, and shaping of the workshop discussions that underpin the website. The website is a collaborative effort between the InTeGrate leadership team and the SERC staff. In addition to the authors, Karin Kirk developed the pages on sustainability topics and early drafts of the workshop findings. Sean Fox and Matt Lauer were essential to the implementation of the site design using the Serckit content management system. The website content is the product of the InTeGrate community, an energetic group of engaged faculty committed to undergraduate Earth education in service to society.

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Correspondence to Kristin O’Connell.

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O’Connell, K., Bruckner, M.Z., Manduca, C.A. et al. Supporting interdisciplinary teaching about the Earth with the InTeGrate website. J Environ Stud Sci 6, 354–359 (2016).

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