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Environmental Science Department Curriculum

University of Southern Maine

Promising Approaches

  • (1) Incorporate discussion of current local, national and international issues and events into the classroom.
  • (2) Design and Implement programs that provide students with the opportunity to apply what they learn through performing community service that is linked to the formal curriculum and classroom instruction.
  • (4) Encourage and support activities and student and community organizations that provide opportunities for students to be engaged in their campuses and communities.
  • (6) Encourage students’ participation in forums that model democratic processes and procedures, both curricular and extracurricular.
  • (8) Involve students in the development and sustaining of campus/community partnerships.


An undergraduate environmental science major at the University of Southern Maine (USM): The Department of Environmental Science (DES) emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science; it also fosters the integration of environmental science with community planning and environmental policy. All DES majors complete a core curriculum composed of natural science, policy, impact assessment, and communication. Following the core, students focus on environmental science, planning and policy, or environmental safety and health. DES requires all its majors to complete an approved internship to bridge the gap between classroom theory, real-life application, and civic responsibility. The curriculum has linked courses with community service and civic responsibility components—curricular and co-curricular—built into the learning process as part of active, inquiry-based learning.

In 2001, the department made a conscious decision to revise the curriculum to strengthen the scientific comprehension and practical problem-solving skills of its majors. More specifically, DES sought to increase problem identification and characterization skills, communication competency (both oral and written), research and analytical skills, and critical thinking. An important secondary goal of the revised curriculum was to foster the interaction between faculty, students, and community members.

Special Features

Civic Learning Goals

  • Civic Knowledge: Knowledge about community affairs, ways in which individuals can help with community & social problems, knowing the community in which they live—in terms of values, resources, processes.
  • Civic Skills:  Apply information to solve environmental problems in a community. Be able to participate in community environmental decision-making.
  • Civic Attitudes/Dispositions: Personal efficacy and social responsibility

Service learning/civic education internships: Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Center for Wildlife, Highland Lake Association, Vermont Youth Conservation Core, Tin Mountain Conservation Center, Maine Audubon

Contact Information
Department of Environmental Science
105 Bailey Hall
University of Southern Maine
37 College Ave
Gorham ME 04038

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy