The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Resilience to Climate Challenges: Learning Site Selection with Field Investigations

Ping Xu, University of Colorado Boulder (United States)


This paper presents experiential learning in a course on design with climate in an undergraduate environmental design program. This course teaches site analysis through field investigations at high-impact zones of postfire debris flows during the 2013 Colorado historic floods, U.S., combining geomorphic knowledge with vernacular experiences. Particularly, this course guides students to discuss the factors causing postfire debris flows and the human responsibilities in such natural hazards. Students in their final papers stated that before taking this class, they were not aware of the potential dangers hidden in the breathtaking scenery. They also thought the postfire debris events happened accidentally and might not happen again. This interdisciplinary course with experiential learning helps students understand the dangerous nature of postfire debris flow and its inevitability in specific landforms during heavy rainstorms. The catastrophes in high-impact zones demonstrate site selection failures. Therefore, avoiding rebuilding in high-impact areas is an effective strategy to enhance mountain community resilience to the extreme climate. The students have presented eagerness and curiosity during field observations. The areas of the field investigations include the debris catchment, the flow track, and the impact area. This first-hand knowledge helps students understand that the larger-scale considerations in site selection are significant to avoid future failures. Field investigation is an efficient way for students to learn site selection to enhance resilience to climate challenges. In undergraduate education, training students’ critical thinking by going to the real world, finding problems, and making solutions, is a crucial educational approach besides teaching skills applied in a digital-virtual world.

Keywords: Experiential learning, Field investigation, Interdisciplinary, Resilience, Postfire debris flow



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