Florida Gulf Coast University has developed a model for undergraduate education whereby the university campus serves as a focus for the study of the entire watershed within which it is situated, from its freshwater origins downstream to the Gulf of Mexico.
The model builds upon previously developed and tested teaching practices that connect the learner directly to an ecosystem. These methods include bringing ecology into the classroom through the use of microcosms and using the schoolyard as an extension of the science classroom. The CEM increases the scale and significance of this approach by emphasizing that the university itself is situated within an ecosystem and is both influenced by and influences this system.
Rather than viewing the campus merely as a setting in which education takes place, the model presents the campus as a common text to be studied by both science majors and non-majors. A deliberate linking of the curriculum to tangible environmental issues within the learner’s own backyard provides a genuine foundation in the discipline and reinforces basic principles and problem-solving techniques. The model not only affords students with hands-on, real-world experience in the discipline of their choosing, but also integrates discipline-based frameworks by linking multiple courses. Such interdisciplinary approaches, emphasizing research experience as well as active, collaborative learning, have been endorsed by both science educators and national science organizations.
For more information about this model at Florida Gulf Coast University, download the Journal of College Science Teaching article "The Campus Ecosystem Model."