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Environmental history course takes campus Educational Initiatives Award

Posted April 26, 2000

Cross John Muir with Steve Jobs, the Audobon Society with Microsoft. That's the accomplishment of "American Environmental and Cultural History," a College of Natural Resources course whose mix of academic content and technology was honored this week with Berkeley's Educational Initiatives Award.

Carolyn Merchant, Chancellor's Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy and Ethics in Environmental Science, accepted the award on behalf of the College of Natural Resources at an April 25 ceremony in Zellerbach Playhouse, where winners of the Distinguished Teaching Award were also honored.

Developed originally by Merchant, a professor in the Department of Environmental Policy & Management, "American Environmental and Cultural History" focuses on the American environment and how different cultural groups (including American Indians, Europeans, and blacks) have perceived, used, managed and conserved it from colonial times to the present.

The classroom and online versions of the course, making use of computer-based technology, offer a model for similar initiatives on and off campus. Merchant teaches the classroom version each fall semester. Lecturer Sandra Marburg, who modified the course for the Web, teaches the online incarnation in spring semester through UC Berkeley Extension's Center for Media and Independent Learning.

"The response from students towards this course has been overwhelmingly positive, with many class evaluations noting the increased depth of understanding which resulted from better note taking and more organized class materials," said Gordon Rausser, dean of the College of Natural Resources.

From the course Web site, students can review lecture materials as well as conduct online discussion of course topics -- including natural resource development, attitudes and behaviors toward nature, and past and present conservation and environmental movements. They also contribute to course content by posting additional materials online.

Another popular feature of the site offers virtual "side trips" to related Web sites, including a map of Native America cultural regions, the Chaco Culture National Historic Park and the Anasazi solar calendar.

One student, calling the course "awesome," said its Web site is "the most useful, well-planned, and aesthetically pleasing course Web site I have ever used."

The Educational Initiatives Award is a $10,000 cash award presented annually to a department or unit in recognition of distinctive contributions to undergraduate education. Designed to complement the campus's Distinguished Teaching Award for individual faculty, it is presented to a department, unit or group of faculty responsible for creating an outstanding program or initiative that has had a sustained impact on undergraduate education and can serve as a workable model for others.



April 26 - May 3, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 30)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
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