Environmental science courses for non-scientists suffer from a lack of available laboratory exercises that fit the goals and needs of a general education audience.  Currently available exercises consist of seemingly unrelated collections of labs from introductory biology and chemistry courses. These exercises fail to connect with the course content and are irrelevant to students' everyday lives.  To address this shortcoming, we have developed technology-enhanced, textbook-independent, multi-week laboratory exercises on environmental topics.  The laboratory exercises are grouped into modules that examine one environmental topic for 3-5 consecutive weeks, providing in-depth examinations of each topic.  Each module synthesizes traditional wet lab exercises with computer simulations of environmental topics, online quizzing/communication, and computerized data laboratory instrumentation.
These exercises improve upon traditional laboratory exercises in that they focus on local environmental issues of concern to students and utilize data from local sites in the exercises.  This data is either collected by the students themselves (e.g., water quality studies), or gathered from internet-based databases (e.g., levels of air pollutants in metro Atlanta).  This avoids the inherent predictability of most traditional laboratory exercises, which simply seek to demonstrate basic scientific principles through time-tested (i.e., predictable) exercises.  This combination of original data and local issues make the laboratory experience complement the course content and greatly improves student interest in the laboratory component of the course.  Further, by emphasizing the "personalized" nature of these exercises (analysis of personal impacts, original data, voicing personal opinions on controversial issues), the laboratory experience is uniquely tailored to each individual student.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Dr. John Pratte at firstname.lastname@example.org.