About MUSPIN/NASA Project

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in cooperation with U.S. minority universities has established regional Network Resources and Training Sites (NRTS) at minority universities to stimulate use of the Internet via computer networks as an integral part of minority institutions’ interdisciplinary research and education.

NASA/MUSPIN (Minority University Space Interdisciplinary Network) is a CUNY-wide project, with five participating colleges: CCNY, Medgar Evers College, LaGuardia Community College, Queensborough Community College, and York College.

There are also six participating high schools: A Philip Randolph, George Washington, Samuel Gompers, Math, Science Research and Technology Magnet (MAST) and Bronx High School of Science.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the MUSPIN project at York College are to improve the teaching of science requirements for prospective teachers following the guidelines of NOVA (NASA Visionary Academics). Geology 115 was selected.

Present Course and Sequence

The General Education Requirements at York College consist of 18-26 credits of general requirements (English, Writing, Cultural Diversity, Physical Education, Speech, and Foreign Language), 9 credits of Humanities, 6 credits of Behavioral Science, 4 credits of Mathematics, and 5-6 credits of Natural Science.

The Natural Science requirements must be chosen from designated courses in Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Health Science, and Physics. One of such designated courses is Geology 115: Energy, Resources and the Environment. We chose Geology 115 for improvement for two reasons: First, it usually attracts a large enrollment of 40 students each semester, and secondly it enrolls a larger number of students in the Education Certification program.

This course has been taught in the traditional lecture mode over the years using Carla Montgomery’s Environmental Geology as text (W. C. Brown, 5th Ed, 1999). Following are the weekly topics of this course:

  • Introduction to course, Earth; past, present and future.
  • Nature and rate of population growth.
  • Impact on natural systems.
  • Renewable vs. non-renewable resources.
  • Materials of the earth. Atoms, elements, molecules, compounds, ions, rocks and minerals.
  • Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics.
  • Volcanic activity.
  • Streams, flooding, drought and the water cycle.
  • Climate, global warming, glaciers and deserts.
  • Water resources. Water availability. Water quality.
  • Soils, soil erosion. Uses of soil. Mineral resources. Ores. Mining.
  • Energy resources, fossil fuels.
  • Alternative energy sources. Nuclear energy. Nuclear waste.
  • Waste disposal. Sewage. Solid waste.
  • Air pollution.
  • Environmental law, land use and medical geology.

The Modified Course

The current Geology 115 course (Energy, Resources, and the Environment) is 100% lecture. No “hands on” work is included and, except for calling for questions on the lectures and/or the reading, it is not interactive. NASA products are not presently used in teaching this course.

The modified Geology 115 course with the same title (Energy, Resources, and the Environment) are taken by Education Certification students as well as other majors as part of the general education requirement for their baccalaureate degree. The course has been modified in the following ways:

About 50% of the course content are presented in an interactive format.

GPS units are used to introduce students to the concepts of latitude, longitude and elevation above sea level. The “hands on” nature of the work with the GPS reinforces for the students, the concept of locating themselves in three dimensions, in relation to the rest of the planet.

Computer models, and data obtained from earth satellites are integrated and applied to the study of global warming and the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and the depletion of the ozone layer. Students will be guided in acquiring data and drawing conclusions from it. NASA products, such as satellite images will be accessed online and projected in the classroom for discussion. Students will be encouraged to acquire and interpret data on their own and discuss the results with the class.

Graphing calculators, interfaced with chemical and physical sensors, (pH, salinity, sound, and turbidity) are introduced and used to explore the nature of, and the measurement of, various environmental pollutants. Interpretation of the data obtained will be discussed.

Homework assignments, involving accessing web page based course materials, are prepared by students and presented to the class.