460 Using Critical Thinking Exercises to Increase Environmental Awareness of Undergraduate Horticulture Students

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  • 1Horticultural Sciences Department, Indian River Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Fort Pierce, FL 34945-3138;2 Department of Environmental Horticulture, Indian River Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Fort Pierce, FL 34945-3138

Information is more accessible to students than ever before. Gone are the days of a single instructor being the ultimate authority on a specific scientific discipline. Search engines, online journals, virtual libraries, and the development of Internet II will continue to drive the increase in availability of information. With basic computer skills, the average college student can put their hands on more subject data than they could possibly read during the time frame of a semester-long course. Therefore, it is more critical than ever to give students the logical tools to evaluate information and construct intelligent arguments. One particular area of interest to the horticulture industry is the impact of environmental regulations and public concern over common horticultural production practices such as irrigation, land development, application of pesticides, and developmental manipulation using growth regulators. South Florida is a mosaic of pristine natural areas, major agricultural production regions, densely populated urban areas, and regions of rapid suburban growth. As a result, there is heightened public awareness of environmental issues, which often leads to spirited conflicts among people with diverse professional backgrounds and personal interests. This catalyzed the development of a new course entitled “South Florida Flora and Ecosystems” that uses several different types of critical thinking exercises to help relate course content information into the cultural and political framework of South Florida. Techniques such as role playing, utilizing guest speakers with opposite opinions on the same topic, and active evaluation of data were used to enhance student learning, increase environmental awareness, and place undergraduate horticultural students one step closer to becoming “society-ready” graduates.

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