Class Projects

1. Reviewing an EIS

If the class is conducted in the United States or in another country that publishes its EISs on-line, then a final EIS, a draft, supplement or EA should be available. These include a road, major addition to one, a bridge, an airport, or any project that is funded by the federal government. In some cases, strategic plans are published.

Ideally, the professor should search months in advance for a suitable EIS for a class project. If s/he can find one, then s/he must read it (that can be a challenge because of length) and design a project around the key issues. Every EIS requires coverage of a standard set of topics that are described in my book. The class can be divided into groups of two or three students to work on each of the major topics. Then each group should read the relevant material in the EIS. If possible, visit the site, consult with experts, and critique the EIS. At a minimum, they should answer the five questions asked in the book. But they should not feel restricted, because there may be a critical issue that merits special attention.

Each group (hopefully at least five groups) should prepare and present a report to the class as a whole, leading to a debate about the project as well as the EIS. The written group reports can be short, 5−10 pages, and the key is to highlight the important impacts that the students found and the extent to which they were adequately covered in the document. The reports can be PowerPoints, posters, videos, again depending upon the professor’s evaluation and strengths of the students.

At least a full class period should be devoted to presenting the project analysis, and the students and professor should consider inviting other students and faculty to the presentation.

Advantages: investigating a real EIS or EA can be a really attractive learning experience, if there is a non-trivial project that can rivet student attention and experts are willing to be interviewed about the project.

Disadvantages: students and professor have to have sufficient background to understand the technology, assumptions and other elements of the EIS. The time commitment can be quite substantial if the EIS is hundreds of pages long and it requires travel out of the immediate area.

Recommendation: to be used by an upper level undergraduate and graduate course with multidisciplinary student body.