GEOG 430
Human Use of the Environment

GEOG 430 Syllabus - Fall 2017

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GEOGRAPHY 430: Human Use of the Environment

Our syllabus is both a "guidebook" that will lead us through our learning adventure and a "contract" that will help us understand our mutual obligations and responsibilities. While all materials in the course are important and useful, none is more important than the syllabus, so make sure to read it thoroughly. Note that the specifics of the syllabus may change, in which case the nature of the changes will be communicated to students via Canvas announcements.

Course Instructor

Sara Cavallo, PhD Candidate in Geography

Department of Geography
The Pennsylvania State University
330 Walker Building
University Park, PA 16802

  • E-mail: sec271@psu.edu
  • Office Hours: Please e-mail me to make an appointment for a Skype/Google Hangout meeting.

I will do my best to respond to e-mails within 48 hours. I am also happy to set up a time to use Google Hangout or Skype should the need arise.

Teaching Assistants

Gabriel Tamariz, PhD Candidate in Geography

Department of Geography
The Pennsylvania State University
302 Walker Building
University Park, PA 16802

Course Overview

Prerequisites*: GEOG 010, or GEOG 020, or GEOG 030, or GEOG 040, or GEOG 130, or permission from the program (based on experience with environmentally-related coursework from another discipline or prior knowledge)

*Regarding prerequisites and requirements for the specific program you are in, please ask the Undergraduate Advisor Jodi Vender (jvender@psu.edu) to see if you can take this course or if this course fulfills a specific requirement.

Geography 430 is an active, creative learning community focused around understanding the changing relationships between people and their environments, the causes and consequences of environmental degradation, strategies for building a more sustainable world, and the methods and approaches that scholars have used to understand human-environment interactions. The primary course objectives are to help geographers, earth scientists, and other professionals to deepen their appreciation for the complexity of human-environment systems, and to develop skills that allow them to interpret, analyze, and communicate effectively regarding human-environment interactions in their lives as students, professionals, and citizens.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this course:

  • students will be able to explain foundational perspectives characterizing human-environment relationships including political ecology, sustainable development studies, environmental justice, and natural resource management;
  • students will be able to compare different perspectives on human-environment relationships across time, space, and cultures;
  • students will be able to analyze and critique competing approaches intended to achieve environmental conservation and sustainability; and
  • students will be able to apply course materials to collaborative discussions and written assignments regarding ongoing human-environment issues and problems.

Course Format

Creating and nurturing a strong, supportive learning community is the mutual responsibility of all course participants. Achieving this goal takes dedication from everyone in a face-to-face setting and is even more challenging in an online environment, but WE CAN DO IT, and here's how:

The course will run over the span of 12 weeks with a different focus topic each week. We will read book chapters and articles, and often watch films which help us to build a foundation of knowledge about the weekly topic and to consider competing perspectives. After engaging with the materials, we'll participate in activities that help us express our ideas and interpretations, connect the material with our lives and scholarly and professional interests, and provide and respond to feedback about our ideas from other community members.

In order to facilitate deep and meaningful intellectual interactions between community members, students are required not just to post their own reactions and responses to course material, but also to respond to each other. This will include peer review on final essay components throughout the course. The instructor will join in online discussions and will also provide feedback on writing, but students are responsible for ensuring that the class functions as a strong learning community. Importantly, within this format, it is VITAL that work is turned in on time so that your classmates and your instructor can provide you with feedback in a timely fashion. For this reason, late work cannot be accepted.

The course is divided into 12 weeks of work. This is significantly shorter than the regular 15-week schedule for courses offered during the fall and spring semesters. This means 1) You can finish it earlier, but 2) it can demand more of your time during the running weeks, and 3) the weight given to each assignment is heavier (less chance to make up undesirable grades). The fact that this course is online does not mean it is less demanding. Many actually find online courses demanding more self-discipline from students to keep on track.

Your assignments for each unit will include completing the reading, taking a weekly quiz, and submitting questions and a written reaction to the course material in that unit. Every few weeks, you will write an essay to respond to a current event prompt posed by your instructor. The best responses will use course readings to make an argument for their responses. You will also write a final essay on a topic of your choosing. Throughout the semester, you will submit various components to help you write the final essay. You will provide feedback to your classmates on each of the essay components.

Geography 430 Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule
Lesson topics by week
Week Lesson Topic
Week 1 Course Orientation
Week 2 Introduction to Environment-Society Geography
Week 3 What is Nature?
Week 4 Overpopulation and Scarcity
Week 5 Food and Waste
Week 6 Commodity Chains
Week 7 Exposure and Toxicity
Week 8 Environmental Justice
Week 9 Resource Extraction
Week 10 Conservation and Protected Areas
Week 11 Climate Change
Week 12 Final Essay Writing Week

Required Course Materials

All of the readings and links to films will be embedded in the course website and posted on Canvas corresponding to the appropriate week. You are not required to purchase a textbook for this class.

Assignments and Grading

You have the opportunity to earn up to 1000 points in this class.

You will be graded on the following assignments:

  1. Weekly quizzes
  2. Weekly reading questions and reactions
  3. Three current event essays
  4. A Final Essay, with various components submitted throughout the course

Here is a breakdown of the number of points you can earn for each activity:

Assignments with corresponding point values
Assignments Value per Assignment Total Value
10 Reading Quizzes  20 points 200 points

7 Weekly Questions and Reactions

  • Weekly Q&R post
  • Weekly Responses to Q&Rs

30 total points

  • 20 points
  • 10 points
    (5 per response)

210 total points

  • 140 pts
  • 70 pts
3 Current Event Essays 60 points 180 points
Final Essay Component: Topic/Thesis 50 points 50 points
Final Essay Component: Bibliography 50 points 50 points
Final Essay Component: Outline 50 points 50 points
Final Essay Component: Comments for Classmates
  • Topic/Thesis
  • Bibliography
  • Outline
  • 20 points
  • 20 points
  • 20 points
60 points
Final Essay - 200 points
Total Possible 1000 points


(Note: There will be a penalty for not completing the course orientation quiz in Week 1. Late adds will be applied a different deadline.)

Assignment Outlines and Instructions

Below are descriptions of each of the assignments for the course. Please read through these assignments so that you have some familiarity with them before beginning the course.

Weekly Quizzes:

10 quizzes; each quiz worth 20 points; 200 total points

After completing the assigned readings and viewing any assigned films, you will take a quiz of 10 questions, worth two points each, that will cover key points from the week’s materials. This quiz will be available to you in that week's folder in the Modules tab of Canvas beginning Thursday of each week and will close on Tuesday night at 11:59 pm Eastern Time. This quiz will have an enforced time limit of 25 minutes.

Weekly Questions and Reaction and Replying to Fellow Classmates:

7 Q&R's. Each worth 20 points for Q&R and 10 points each for responding to 2 classmates posts; 210 points total.

After engaging with the week's materials, you will submit opening questions and a reaction to the week’s material on Canvas by Tuesday night at 11:59 pm Eastern Time. The reaction portion is generally 200-300 words, but please follow each week's prompt for length guidelines specific to each week. You will submit your work to the Questions and Reactions discussion forum for the respective week. You must then respond to at least 2 of your classmates' reactions by Thursday night at 11:59 pm Eastern Time while keeping in mind the rules of netiquette. No Q&R's will be due on weeks when current event essays are also due.

The post should include three sections.

  • Your reaction:
    In 200-300 words, your reaction is expected to address at least two, and preferably all of the assigned materials. In your reaction, you should first consider the assigned material(s) on its own terms. Ask yourself: what is the author’s main argument? What does the author assume about human-environment interactions? What other assumptions does the author make? Then, provide your own brief reaction. Submissions that do not meaningfully engage with the course material(s) will receive a zero. You must read/watch the material(s) before completing this assignment. When responding to your classmates, you may comment on something they said that you found interesting, answer one of the questions they posed, or pose another question. The instructor will be monitoring the board to make sure that discussions stay on topic, and that comments are respectful.
  • Questions:
    Submit 3 questions following your reaction. Your questions should relate the reading/film to the key terms covered in that week or in previous weeks. You must submit at least one question on each of the assigned materials. This requirement is graded as all or nothing; so, if you do not submit questions for one of the readings, you will receive no points for this portion of the assignment.
  • Citations:
    You must also include full references for the assigned material. You must use APA style. For information on how to do this, visit this online Handbook. This requirement is graded as all or nothing; so, if you do not submit references for one of the readings, you will receive no points for this portion of the assignment.
  • Respond to 2 Classmates:
    Once everyone has written their Q&R, you will then be required to go back into the discussion and converse with at least two of your classmates. Make your posts meaningful. They will be graded.

Please see the Week 2 Q&R assignment in Canvas to see the grading rubric that will be used on all of the Q&R assignments.

Current Event Essays:

3 Essays; 60 points per essay; 180 total points

When considering complicated and important topics, sometimes it's best to think about it in relation to real-world problems. Three times throughout the semester, the instructor will post a drop box on Canvas and a link to a current event article on human-environment interactions. For each of the 3 Current Event Essays, you will write a 750-1000 word essay response in which you address how the current event relates to course material, drawing on specific readings. Each current event essay is worth 60 points toward your final grade.

Current Event Essays will be due by Thursday at 11:59 pm Eastern Time. See the Canvas calendar for all of the dates.

You will be graded as follows:

  • 25 points: Connection with Course Content. Your reaction to the current event. Your essay must address the article and questions posted by the instructor and must make direct connections to the course material, drawing on specific readings/films. You need to have a clear argument that you are able to defend.
  • 15 Points: College Level Writing. This course is a 400-level course, meaning you should demonstrate upper-level writing skills to be successful in the course. You should make an effort to craft your essay and demonstrate your capacity to use the English language to express your ideas. Make sure to edit and proofread your work to ensure it is concise, has good flow, and is free of errors.
  • 10 points: Correct Citations and at least 1 non-course citation. Make sure to cite the current event article(s) posted by the instructor, any course readings you use in your essay, and at least one additional citation that you found on your own. These should all be in APA format.
  • 10 Points: Follow Directions. Make sure to follow the directions. These essays are meant to be 750-1000 words in length, and answer the prompt from the instructor.

Final Essay & Components:

5 Components; Worth 410 total points

For the final essay, you are asked to write a 3000-3500 word essay that documents a topic and proposes a resolution to a place-based problem/challenge surrounding human uses of the environment. The goal is for you to address a real-world issue using the skills you have learned and perspectives you have gained in the course. You will propose a topic, write smaller components throughout the semester, receive feedback from your classmates and instructor, and submit a final paper at the end of the course. The goal of submitting pieces of your final paper throughout the course is designed to give you feedback and ultimately help you write a stronger final paper. The paper will be due at the end of the course.

(1) Topic and Thesis Statement:
In week 4, students will submit their chosen topic and thesis statement for instructor approval. The topic should be narrow (not something as broad as global climate change, for example, but perhaps some particular case study of climate change in a particular place).

(2) Annotated Bibliography:
In week 7, students will submit an annotated bibliography that summarizes some of the literature they will be drawing on for the final paper (approx. 2-3 pages double-spaced). The annotated bibliography should include at least 10 resources that the student intends on using in their final paper, and a 2-3 sentence summarization of each resource.

(3) Outline:
In week 10, students will submit an outline for their final essay which briefly summarizes the argument and information that will be covered in the final essay.

(4) Feedback to fellow classmates:
In weeks 4, 7, and 10, students will submit all of the above components of the final essay to a discussion board and are required to provide feedback and suggestions to at least one of their peers. This way, students will receive detailed feedback from their classmates, as well as the instructor, leading to overall stronger essays at the end of the course.

(5) Final Essay:
At the end of the course, students will submit a final essay that offers a complex analysis and discussion of their chosen topic. The final document should be between 3000-3500 words. It should be submitted in Microsoft Word format (.docx). The essay should be accompanied by a works cited page, and all sources should be referenced correctly throughout the essay. Since this is a research paper, students are expected to find outside, scholarly sources, beyond the readings assigned in this course.

The instructor will remind students of upcoming dates for submitting essay components throughout the course.

Points for the final project will be distributed as follows:

Points distribution for Final Project
Activity Points
Topic/Thesis (Week 4) 50
Bibliography (Week 7) 50
Paper Outline (Week 10) 50
Providing Feedback to Classmates
  • Topic/Thesis
  • Bibliography
  • Outline
60
  • 20 points
  • 20 points
  • 20 points
Final Essay Due (Week 12) 200

Late Assignments: No Can Do!

As mentioned above, this learning community is dependent upon assignments being turned in on time. Your classmates need an appropriate amount of time to read and respond to your discussion posts, and, likewise, we need time to score your assignments and provide feedback before the next round of assignments is due. As a result, we will not accept late assignments. If the deadline is Tuesday at 11:59 pm Eastern Time, an assignment turned in on Wednesday at 1:02 am will not be graded and you will receive a zero. The only exceptions are a) if you have a personal or family medical emergency, or b) you inform your instructor of a conflict well in advance and receive permission to turn an assignment in late. This may seem like a harsh policy, but it is intended to nurture participation that is respectful of everyone's time. We urge you to turn in all assignments at least an hour early so that you don't find yourself in a stressful situation.

Grades

Grades will be determined based on the percentage of total possible points earned, with the below classification, though, we reserve the right to adjust a grade based on extenuating circumstances. We will use the Canvas gradebook to keep track of your grades, and please inform your instructor promptly if there appears to be an error in the gradebook:

Letter grades and associated percentage ranges
Letter Grade Percentage Range
A 93-100%
A- 90-92.99%
B+ 87-89.99%
B 83-86.99%
B- 80-82.99%
C+ 77-79.99%
C 70-76.99%
D 60-69.99%
F <60%
X Unsatisfactory
(student did not participate)

Course Policies

Special note about the Academic Integrity section below.
What does it mean? When it comes to the actual quiz-taking or the actual assignment texts, work completely alone. The only thing you can consult during quiz-taking or assignment text writing is the raw materials the course provides and the note you yourself may have made regarding them. Don't borrow knowledge on the previous quiz questions from previous or current course-takers or use their reflections on the raw materials, in person or on-line: You may discuss things with your classmates before you take the quiz, but do not borrow their ideas without a quote.

Use the following link to access our Quick Guide to Citations & References

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the ITS Help Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted.  We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted.  This is called mixed content.  By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.  This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed.  Follow the directions on our technical requirements page to view the mixed content.

Equations

This course must be viewed using one of the following browsers: Firefox (any version), Safari (versions 5.1 or 6.0), Chrome (0.3 or later), or Internet Explorer with the MathPlayer PlugIn. If you use any other browser, there will be pages containing equations that do not render properly. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from the Penn State World Campus are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

This course follows the guidelines for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: Contacts for Disability Resources at all Penn State Campuses. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources (SDR) website.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation, see Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation. Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage.

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Inclement Weather

In case of weather-related delays at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to weather delays. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information with others whom you do not know.

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.

Attendance

This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Disclaimer

Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.