In studying the processes of biology and ecology, one of the best ways to understand a concept is to study its pathology; that is, what happens when things go wrong. This environmental science research project assigns each student a historically significant ecological disaster. Many of the events students will discuss resulted in long-term changes in environmental policy and laws.
This assignment works well as an end-of-year cumulative assessment for a high school course, as it covers many concepts covered previously. Within a college course, students can be given due dates that allow them to present their topic during a week it is most relevant. For example, the Exxon Valdez oil spill presentation would be well-placed either within the water pollution or nonrenewable energy unit.
Environmental Disasters Research Topics
This is a list of the topics I chose to make available to my environmental science class. The topics are organized by the units I teach and in chronological order of due date. I give students the option of choosing a topic not on this list if they find one of interest. A good place to look for other ideas is the Wikipedia list of environmental disasters.
Research Presentation Grading Rubric
Consistent, high-quality papers and presentations are most likely to occur when the students understand the specific expectations of their instructor. This rubric lays out the points value for every section of the research project and explains the different grade levels for each. This document also includes a set of formatting guidelines for students to use in crafting their research paper.
Student Presentation - Amazon Deforestation
This is a high-scoring presentation turned in by a student in my Fall 2011 Environmental Biology course. The Powerpoint is visually appealing, organized, and briefly summarizes her main points without going into excess detail. Providing examples like this to a class may be a good way of emphasizing the level of expectations the instructor has for the project.