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Case Study: ERM 499A

Costa Rica Study Tour

In ERM 499A students develop an understanding of the connections between communities, agriculture, and the environment in Costa Rica. By visiting EARTH University (Escuela de Agricultura de la Región Tropical Húmeda), community farms, and other locations throughout Costa Rica, students will learn how tropical countries are attempting to balance land-intensive agricultural practices with the preservation of their valuable natural resource base. Students will work in teams to communicate their findings to the rest of the group by presenting topic specific presentations and participating in the Mobile Media Program. The purpose of including the mobile media video project in the class was to empower the students learning while getting experience in new media literacy.

Project in Brief

Course: ERM 499A
Instructor: Tammy Bennett
Number of Students: 16
Semester: Spring 2013
Duration of Assignment: 7 weeks

Key Benefits

Students will complete this class with the ability to:

  • Understand Costa Rica’s academic system compared to the United States.
  • Critically evaluate information about Costa Rica’s waste management practices.
  • Define what constitutes sustainable agriculture in a tropical region.
  • Describe the biodiversity and eco-tourism of Costa Rica.

They called upon these skills in the creation of their research topic videos.

Project Description for Students

Environmental Resources Technical Report and Video Project

Post-trip technical report and presentation – After returning from Costa Rica, student groups will meet to plan and write a technical report and prepare an iMovie documentary video of their visit. The group should equitably share the distribution of work for each report.

The group technical report (7-10 pages) should consist of the following sections:

  • a short abstract (no more than 250 words)
  • a summary of the climate, history, geography and/or culture that have an impact on the agricultural, development, or natural resource topic discussed.
  • an analysis of the topic which includes a description of the environmental, economic and social impacts of your topic. Groups should consider comparing and contrasting the impacts of “conventional” practices to more innovative or sustainable practices. Considerations should be given to energy demands, waste disposal issues, impact(s) on land use and water quality.

The oral presentations for each group will consist of a 5 to 10 minute iMovie production that summarizes the points brought out in the technical report, as well as any general information and experiences encountered during the trip. The video presentations will be given later in the semester to the rest of the class. Each iMovie presentation will include an oral introduction.


The point distribution is listed below:

  • Pre-trip participation and discussion: 25%
  • Trip participation and discussion: 25%
  • Technical Report: 25%
  • Post-trip Group Presentation: 25%

For the video students will:

  • Assess an appropriate video style for their message.
  • Research information on their assigned topic.
  • Receive Media Commons training on working with audio and video equipment and editing using GarageBand or iMovie software.
  • Identify appropriate media tools and techniques for their chosen topics.
  • Record, edit and publish videos to iTunes U for evaluation and presented to their peers during class.
Grading Process

The final project is worth 25% of the course grade. Students worked in groups of four and had seven weeks to complete their assignments.

Projects were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Research quality
  • Evidence of Collaboration
  • Video quality
  • Research and media source citation

Download the Rubric


  • iMovie
  • iPod touch devices
  • GarageBand
  • Green screen


  • Researching topics
  • Effective communication
  • Working in groups
  • Conveying information using multimedia

Target Skills

  • Researching
  • Storytelling
  • New media literacy
  • Writing
  • Presenting

(Instructor’s) Lessons Learned

“Higher order thinking skills were developed through group collaboration, negotiating content, reviewing footage, contributing information and analyzing data.”