Skip to Content

Center for Teaching Excellence

  • College Engineering Interns

Out of the Classroom and onto the Site: Active Observation of Complex Systems


Don’t you wish you could really show the students more: the complex systems, the interactions and the world? If only they could actually see what you are talking about. But how? In K-12 classrooms they might take the coveted fieldtrip. But how do we do this in a college setting without disrupting students’ schedules and imposing additional stress and administrative work to the already full curricula?

This seminar shows you ways to get your students out of the classroom and involved in the real and complex systems they study with a combined observation and journal technique. The exercise is applicable to many disciplines and diverse areas of study, and can be easily incorporated into local, readily accessible destinations. This method can serve as the foundation for dynamic class discussions, small group activities or solo reflections and has been well received by student participants. You’ll learn how to introduce the complex systems simply, with zest and using what’s at hand.

About the Facilitators

Liv Haselbach is an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Washington State University. Prior to her involvement with WSU, she was a practicing engineer before starting a consulting firm focused on land development of retail petroleum and fast food facilities. Her interests pairs the environment and development with a focus on low impact sustainable construction. She also has an interest in sustainability education. She is a licensed professional engineer in New York, Connecticut, South Carolina and Virginia and is a LEED® Accredited Professional.

Michelle Maher is an Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina, offering classes in the principles of college teaching and research skill development. She facilitates faculty and graduate student writing groups that enhance scholarly productivity and build collegial networks. She studies the process of knowledge creation through scholarly writing, focusing on scientific and engineering disciplines. Her work has appeared in several leading journals, including Science, American Educational Research Journal", The Journal of Higher Education, and Studies in Higher Education.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.