Delaware State University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 6416-6425
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Directly involving science students in hands-on learning has proven to be a very effective learning method. This method enhances students’ ability to think critically and engage in class activities. Essentially, students become active participants in planning, implementing, and drawing conclusions for a lab exercise rather than being passive learners listening to lectures, watching power point presentations, and taking tests. Many of the agricultural and natural resources courses at Delaware State University require both laboratory and field experiences for the agriculture and natural resources students. Planning activities for the laboratory may pose a challenge when resources or facilities are limited. In order to enhance student learning, we planned and implemented cost effective, hands-on laboratory activities that utilized existing resources and readily available tools for the students in the Soil and Water Management class. The class includes a number of interactive learning methods and hands on training opportunities to better students’ understanding and appreciation for living soil characteristics and water properties. Laboratory activities may be adapted from exercises from a variety of sources and may be tailored to match the class lesson plans.

Six major course objectives identified for the class include:
a) recognize the importance and availability of soil and water as natural resources in our ecosystems;
b) study soil erosion mechanisms and corresponding control techniques;
c) evaluate the roles of water conservation, artificial drainage, and irrigation;
d) identify soil and water pollution sources and prevention strategies and methods;
e) learn how to analyze soil-water conservation needs and develop watershed management plans; and
f) long-term climate change impacts on soil, water quality, and land use.

Laboratory exercises, as well as observation and reports combined with term papers, presentation and debate topics help students understand topics and relate them to real-time issues and local challenges. Outdoor laboratory activities and field trips provided further motivation and enhance the knowledge of local soil and water management decisions. This method of teaching resulted over 85% success rate and higher grades in the class. Students learning goals such as critical thinking, writing, reading, and presentation skills along with their personal skills and self-esteem were improved significantly resulted high course evaluation score and increased students’ interest for further education in this discipline.
Lab enhanced teaching, hands-on activities, cost effective lab, teaching soil and water, interactive and engaging teaching.