DescriptionThe Soil & Water Tour is a compulsory, 2-credit, research oriented, inquiry based fieldwork-laboratory integrated course. It includes 5 days of fieldwork during the winter break followed by laboratory experiments and analysis, which last for 3 months. The course aims to train the undergraduates to handle robust scientific models, to solve wicked and ill-posed problems, to sustain intellectual curiosity, and to commit to lifelong learning. It facilitates students to acquire both generic-specific skills and fundamental laws and principles of soil sciences. The fieldwork consisting of wide arrays of assigned research topics relevant to soil-water-vegetation relationships in natural and anthropogenic environments, soil quality, and terrestrial ecosystem functions. Specific examples of such fieldworks include: Studying soils across soil catena, classification and management of salt affected soils, studying terraced soils and irrigation system in wadies across Al-Hajar Mountains, evaluation of soil fertility of agricultural lands of the Al-Batinah region; Impact of recharge/ storage dams on the soils’ hydropedological properties; management of Aflaj systems, in particular, water use efficiency and quality assessment, among others. Students go through the multifaceted learning activities of the inquiry based paradigm, which involves making observations, posing questions, examining literature; planning investigations; using tools and instruments to gather, analyse, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations, and predictions; and communicating the results. The ultimate goal is to adequately prepare the soil sciences students for the challenges of professional life or future graduate studies. This is in line with the considerable international interest in strengthening the roles of inquiry and research, with closer integration of learning, research, and teaching in the undergraduate experience.
the Soil & Water Tour course embraces the best practice of teaching soil science such as: (i) Conducting fieldwork that demonstrating relevance and real-world connections and linking Soil Science to other related disciplines, (ii) Experiencing active learning by assisting students to derive Soil Science theory by using current real problems, scenarios and case studies, (iii) Encouragement the creation of connections, synthesis and integration, among students that allow them to revisit concepts in different situations, (iv) Assisting students develop a holistic thinking and appreciate that soil is part of larger systems, emphasizing the nature and role of soil in various natural, managed, social and economic systems, (v) Allowing students to interpret and present information and ideas in a variety of formats that resemble real-life scenarios where possible, and (vi) Giving students opportunities to deal and solve contemporary, authentic, challenging problems in groups that should allow them develop personal skills and enable them to apply their abilities and experience in multiple perspectives.
The course is designed in a way that it integrates the basic components of significant learning as proposed Fink (2013) on his book creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses.