InTeGrate: Interdisciplinary Teaching of Geoscience for a Sustainable Future

Cathryn A. Manduca - Winter 2013

InTeGrate is an NSF sponsored community effort to support the teaching of geoscience in the context of societal issues both within geoscience courses and across the undergraduate curriculum. Our goal is to develop a citizenry and workforce that can address environmental and resource issues facing our society.

Geoscience literacy and expertise play a role in all societal issues that involve the Earth. These issues range from environmental degradation and natural hazards to creating sustainable economic systems or livable cities. Yet, very few students in the United States develop a sufficient understanding of geoscience to help inform either their personal decision-making or their choice of career pathways. Those that have encountered geoscience may not develop a sufficient, practical knowledge to apply their understanding to address societal challenges.

Thus, there are two main goals of the InTeGrate project. (1) To dramatically increase geoscience literacy of all undergraduate students including those that do not major in the geosciences, those who are historically under-represented in the geosciences, and future K-12 teachers, such that they are better positioned to make sustainable decisions in their lives and as part of the broader society. (2) To increase the number of majors in the geosciences and associated fields that are able to work with other scientists, social scientists, business people, and policy makers to develop viable solutions to current and future environmental and resource challenges.

Achieving these goals requires a revolution in how geoscience education is perceived and practiced by geoscientists, as well as the roles that the geosciences play in the broader curriculum in institutions of higher education. An integrated approach combines the following elements:

  1. Materials development: to develop teaching materials and evaluation of new teaching resources and instruction strategies,
  2. Undergraduate program design and development: to incorporate geoscience throughout the curriculum,
  3. Professional development and dissemination: to promote widespread adoption of these new approaches, and
  4. Assessment and project evaluation: so that the materials and programs developed meet their stated goals, and that project activities meet overarching InTeGrate goals.

The InTeGrate project hinges on active participation from faculty across the country. In 2012, the project hosted four workshops that produced a rich set of teaching materials, essays, course descriptions, and program descriptions available on the project website. Additionally, teams of faculty developed and piloted curriculum with topics ranging from environmental justice and freshwater resources to natural hazards and energy resources. To attend a workshop or join a curriculum development team, visit: