ENVR 201 Syllabus Fall 2017

Dr. Sam Abrash
GOTW C-208

W: 289-8248

C: 804-363-2597


Office Hours
I’m in my office from about 9:00 A.M. to about 5:30 P.M. each day.  I’m available any time I’m not teaching or in meetings.

(1) Readings in Environmental Studies, compiled by Chris Stevenson.
(2) Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues, 17th ed, Thomas Easton (ed)


Course Grade



Tests (3)


Term paper


Test Dates

Test #1

Oct 4

Test #2

Nov 10

Test #3

Dec 18*

Due Dates

Paper topic choice

Nov 3

Term paper outline

Nov 13

Term paper

Nov 20

Class Participation

Your class participation grade has two components: (1) daily Summary Sheets, based on the required reading for that day; and (2) attendance and participation in class/minigroup exercises. These are described below.

Summary Sheets

Various (1-3) articles will be assigned reading for most class periods. You are to prepare a short, typed summary (typically about one page) of each article assigned and bring it to class. In your summary you should clearly answer two questions:

At the end of each article there are several questions on the material. You should probably consider these questions when preparing your summary. In a few cases I will specifically ask you to address one or more of these questions in your Summary Sheet. The Summary Sheets should be largely in your own words. If you lift quotes from the source, make sure you include them in quotation marks and attribute them to the proper source. You do not want to use them unattributed in a test (which would be plagiarism).

In addition to being useful during the test itself, detailed and accurate Summary Sheets are invaluable aids in preparing for the tests. Here is a suggested guideline to preparing your Summary Sheet for a particular assignment:

Submit your Summary Sheets by uploading them to Blackboard before class. You should also bring a printed copy of your Summary Sheet to class for discussions.

Only Summary Sheets that are submitted on time will receive full credit and may be included in the "test packet" that you may use on tests. See below for my policy on late submissions, and for more details on test packets.

Optional Readings and Extra Credit

In addition to the assigned readings, additional readings are noted in the Class Schedule. The additional readings are not required. There are two types of additional readings:

During the semester, there may be some talks or other events on campus with significant environmental content. Attending these events may lead to extra credit towards your Participation grade; details will be given as announcements in class or via email.

Minigroup Discussions and Exercises

Most class periods will follow a typical pattern. You will have done the assigned reading (and prepared summary sheets) before coming to class. At the beginning of class, I will provide some background and context for the reading. Then I will pose several questions and you will break up into small groups to discuss. After some time, we will come back together as a class for a general discussion and conclusions. The primary purpose of the questions and the minigroup is to foster discussion about the readings in a small setting, since typically larger class discussions are typically dominated by a few people (or the instructor).

Occasionally I will have the group write down the answers to their questions or perform some other group exercise whose results will be submitted at the end of class. Attendance on these days will be taken, and an unexcused absence will count against your class participation grade. Sometimes -- though infrequently -- the material turned in by each group will be graded, with everyone in the group receiving the same grade (except, of course, absent members, whose grade will be zero unless the absence is excused).

Taking Sides Issues

Some class periods will be spent on a controversy from Taking Sides. Minigroups will be assigned a task for these days and will present their results to the class. We will have two different types of taking sides assignments. In the first, half of the minigroups will summarize the context/background of the issue, and half will present a critical evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments presented in one of the two articles, one group for the yes article and one for the no article. In the second we will have a debate on the issues raised. In advance each group will be assigned one or two of the following four tasks: Argue for the yes article, argue for the no article, rebut the yes article and rebut the no article. For this second type of assignment, you should use the information in the yes and no articles as your starting point, but should dig more deeply into the articles in order to strengthen your debate points. Also after the arguments for the yes and no articles have been completed, the rebutting teams will have 10 minutes of class time to organize their rebuttals, although the bulk of the research should have been done in advance.


There will be three tests given during the semester. The third test will be given during Finals week (you will have extra time on that test). You will be allowed to use a Test Packet during the tests. The packet contains all your Summary Sheets that were submitted on time, and submissions from minigroup exercises. Please note that you will assemble your test packet yourselves from your copies of the Summary Sheets and other allowed materials.

Your Test Packet will be turned in with your test, and is covered by the Honor Code. There should be no handwriting on the Summary Sheets in your packet (highlighting and underlining are allowed), or any other unapproved additions to the Test Packet.

Preparing for Tests

The following are the source materials to use in studying for tests:

The best preparation you can do for the test is to prepare detailed and accurate Summary Sheets. The reading assignments are voluminous and you may not have time to re-read all of them before the test. Your Summary Sheets are valuable aids in studying, in addition to the fact that you will have them available to you during the test. Become very familiar with your Summary Sheets. You cannot add testable information to them, but I will allow you to do things that make them easier to use: adding page numbers, for example. You should compare your Summary Sheets to the Powerpoints -- you will need to learn any information in the Powerpoints that is not in the Summary Sheets.

Remember that the tests are timed. You should be very familiar with the contents of your Summary Sheets because you won't have enough time to thumb through them looking for every single item. In fact, ideally you should barely need them during the actual test.

Some concepts and readings are undoubtedly more important than others. If you have time, re-read all your assigned articles; if not, just read the highlighted portions and answer the questions at the end of each, paying particularly close attention to the more important articles and events.

Once you've studied the articles, your Summaries and Powerpoints thoroughly, move on to the old tests. Remember that the course has evolved over time; the more recent tests are probably more applicable to the material covered for your test. If something in an old test looks completely unfamiliar, it may be from a reading or topic that is no longer covered. Conversely, there may be some new topics or readings that won't appear in old tests at all.

For each question in an old test, think of all the important components of a proper answer and jot them down. Then look at the answer key and see if you missed anything. I spent quite a bit of time on the answer keys; in the absence of a real textbook, they can be valuable aids in learning. Just keep in mind their limitations (ie, that some topics might not be covered on old tests).

In reviewing old tests, look for recurring topics. I consider some things quite important, to the point where some aspect of that topic will appear on almost every test. Look for such things and learn them well.

Term Paper: Critical Examination of an Environmental Issue

The goal of your term paper is a critical examination of some human impact on the environment:

It is likely that there will be some controversy associated with your environmental issue, and your job will be to present "both" sides of the argument. You must clear your topic with me before proceeding further. You are encouraged to address an issue of rather narrow scope and explore it in some detail; in other words, choose depth over breadth.

You can freely choose to address one of the topics in the current (or even previous) edition of your Taking Sides book. If you choose one of the issues that we specifically address in class, be aware that you will be expected to go into (much) greater depth than we did in the classroom discussion.

The paper should be double-spaced, for easy insertion of comments. The length of the paper is up to you, but it should be at least 2500 words, excluding title page and bibliography. An outline of your paper will be due several weeks before the end of the term (see above for all due dates). Failure to term in the outline by the due date will result in a 10% grade penalty on the project paper.

Policy for Late Assignments

Summary sheets are due before class begins on the due date. Late submissions will not be included in your Test Packets, except in the case of an excused absence (eg due to illness or participation in a school event). If you submit a late Summary Sheet within one week of the due date then there will be a 50% penalty towards your participation grade. Summary Sheets later than one week will not receive any credit.

No other late assignments will be accepted for credit.

Honor Code

All work submitted under your signature in this course is pledged as being your own work. The honor code applies to Summary Sheets, the term paper, and tests. In particular, using someone else's Summary Sheet to prepare your own is considered a violation of the Honor Code. Certain assignments are group projects, and are considered to be a collaborative effort of the entire group. Every student in the group will receive the same grade.

The honor pledge is "I pledge that I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance during the completion of this work."


Due to the heavy discussion component, class attendance is mandatory. Unexcused absences will result in a deduction from your course grade. Acceptable excuses for missed class are: personal or family illness, or participation in a university-sponsored event.