CAPSTONE : Interdisciplinary Natural Resources

Cross listed ENTO, FREC, 467

Spring 2001

Lead Instructors: Dewey Caron, Entomology; Steve Hastings, Food and Resource Economics.

Course Description

A problem based learning (PBL) experience designed for NRM, WC and ESS majors (and others with interest). Course content will be a multi-disciplinary approach to examination of the White Clay Creek watershed with special emphasis on the White Clay Preserve (PA) and White Clay Creek State Park (DE) and the collaborative effort that led to the watershed being designated a Wild and Scenic River (OCT 2000).

Course Objectives

Course will focus on processes rather than content. Students should gain skill in finding relevant resources for problems, sharpen group activity skills and improve oral/written communications using "real world" problems. Focus is on collaboration and providing students with opportunities to practice critical thinking and improve problem solving skills.

Evaluation will focus on:

Course Outline

PBL Format

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approaches realistic "real world" problems so students can acquire life long learning skills. Such skills include finding and using appropriate learning resources, integration of resources, experiences and knowledge of peers into coherent oral/written presentations.

The format is to organize 3-6 person student groups and present a problem based on a real-world situation that is in their educational training to date. Within the group narrative, mini-lectures and questions will direct students into organization of ideas and evaluation of existing information (from a variety of sources) leading toward group dictated exploration of additional information to define the nature of the problem. Students will pose questions ("learning issues"), define what they individually/group-wise know about the "real world" issue and equally as important, what they donít know. For some problems, the groups will then decide what questions need follow up and the resources that need to be consulted/developed to become better informed. Follow up will include integration of new knowledge and/or opinion into the problem for summation - both orally and written on the problem.

The course will begin with an overview of PBL and formation of groups. The first couple of sessions will involve an examination of a textbook on Collaboration and then a "practice" problem based on a report on Protecting Delaware's Natural Heritage

The major focus experience will focus on the White Clay Creek Watershed and protected Preserve (PA) and Park (DE). It will be roughly developed into 3 components with subsets of each. Students will get to elect some of the coverage of the subsets (NOTE: there may not be time to do all subsets).

Natural Resources (Biodiversity)

DENRC Biodiversity Site

Resource management


Management & Collaboration in the future


Sixty percent (60%) individual and 40% group activity. There will be two group oral and two written reports (one pre-spring break and a final report - 10% each of total grade). Before spring break there will be one individual written and oral report and a second written and oral report after spring break (15% each of total grade). The final oral report will be presented to an audience of interested students/faculty in lieu of final exam. Students will have an opportunity to grade each other for the group oral/written presentations (lead instructors will be responsible for course grade determinations) and are encouraged to share written presentations before hand-in for critical reading/review.

Groups (or group if only a single group) will establish their own ground rules regarding absences, turning material in on time and participation at the beginning of the semester. Students needing "extra credit" will have an opportunity to do more than their "share" on final project and/or prepare an additional written report on some aspect of what we cover. Group work to be done during designated class time as much as possible (individual presentations and written assignments will require out-of-class time).

Experts will be considered for "mini-lectures" for some topics (Dorothy Miller on collaboration/WCC, John McKenzie on water issues, DNREC representative on put-and-take fishing or deer/geese hunting for example) and suggestions should come from students. Groups will determine some of the focus questions.