Science & Environmental Communication
FYSM 1000-04

Course Requirements

Attendance & Participation (including involvement in ITG project activities)
20 pts
Roundtable Discussion (5 pts - comment sheet*; 5 pts – co-facilitation; 5 pts – summary+)
15 pts
Co-Curricular sessions (2.5 points each)
5 pts
Composition #1, 1-page composition description & release forms= (due Thurs, October 3)
20 pts
Composition #2, 1-page composition description & release forms= (due Thurs, December 14)
20 pts
Project Portfolio (due Tuesday December 19, 1:30pm)
20 pts
Total: 100 points

* comment sheets are late with the deduction starting after 2pm on the day before the co-facilitation
+ for late summaries we deduct 25% per day (starting from the session following the co-facilitation session)
= these are meant to demonstrate the work you did to prepare for each composition, and must be handed in on the due dates for each composition.  No late sheets will be accepted.
# there will be 1-point extra credit opportunities for attendance & participation in seminars on selected Wednesdays at noon in CSTPR conference room during the term: see for schedule


All who enroll in the course must mindfully, productively and enthusiastically participate in each session. This is critical to the success of the class, and it requires that everyone is consistently present in each class, arriving prepared to critically engage with the class topics, concepts, activities and materials of the day. Our discussion inevitably will build upon previous sessions so if you accumulate more than three unexcused absences during the term you will not be able to pass the course.

Class Participation

Participation are evaluated through your engagement in the class discussions, contributions through class preparation and group activities, participation in guest visits (e.g. preparing to ask one question of each guest), collaborative efforts in composition work, and involvement in additional class activities.

Roundtables: Comment Sheets, Discussion Co-Facilitation, Summary

During one of the noted sessions during the semester, each student will work with 1-2 others to co-facilitate a roundtable discussion of the week’s materials and themes. There will be a sign-up sheet on Thursday, August 31 in order to pick the date and theme for facilitation. This co-facilitation will have three main elements: 1) preparation of a Comment Sheet before the session, 2) Co-facilitation during the session, and 3) a Summary after the session **both comment sheets and summaries must be written in 12pt Times New Roman, single-spaced using APA formatting and style***

Comment Sheets
Co-facilitators will prepare how they tentatively plan to guide discussions. They must coordinate and draw up notes to distribute, providing a set of potential discussion points. Co-facilitators will be limited to 2 pages of comments/questions total and send them to the other course participants over email by 2PM the day before the session (24 hours ahead of the session). To post a message to the class, send the attachment via email to These comments will direct us all to what co-facilitators determine to be important and key themes as well as critiques and questions from the session’s material to discuss during the session. These must be prepared together.

Based on the co-facilitated roundtable discussion, at the following session co-facilitators will eachsubmit an approximately 300-word summary on the content as well as the process of preparation for and activities in the roundtable discussion.  When turning in the Summary, note the word count.
Summaries must include:

  • Substantive treatment of what discussions and questions transpired in the session.
  • Discussion of how the roundtable session may have or may have not furthered critical understanding of the themes for that week. 
  • Reflections on your facilitation role in the session:  What worked in co-facilitating the discussion? What did not? What would you do differently the next time? 

Co-Curricular Seminars

The Co-Curricular Seminar series provides students with the opportunity to get exposure to topics that are important to student success, without taking away time from the academic content that is core to the FYS sections.  Ten different topic seminars are offered during the first 8 weeks of the semester.  Each topic will be 60 minutes and will be offered four times to allow students with different schedules to attend. The topics cover a wide range of options:

  • Intro to Study Abroad – Opportunities for the multiple types of education abroad programs at CU
  • Involvement with the Environment Center – Many students state that environmental and sustainability concerns were a main influence on selecting CU.  This seminar will introduce students to opportunities to get involved with the center.
  • Understanding Library Resources – An introduction to finding resources at the library and connecting with librarians in different subject areas.
  • Well-Being and Mental Health – A seminar by the case management office on the wide array of resources available on campus for students and the challenges they may face as a first-year student.
  • Housing Options and Opportunities – An introduction by the housing department on how to navigate the housing options while students attend CU.
  • Time Management 101 – A seminar focusing on how to manage time successfully while in college and how to balance the multiple interests and activities that students want to pursue.
  • Major Exploration – How to find the major that is right for a student and how to explore majors to find the right one.
  • Long-Term Planning at CU – A focus on planning a student’s four-year journey at CU including classes, activities, and completing your major.
  • Successful Study Skills – Building successful study skills and the resources available on campus to support a successful transition to the first-year and beyond.
  • Working with an Advisor – An introduction to how advising is essential to success at CU and how advising works with each student to support a successful path.

The schedule will be posted soon here. Students will be required to attend two seminars, earning 2.5 points for attending each (up to 5 points total). Beyond credit, you are certainly welcome to attend as many sessions as you find useful.


Students will create two Compositions over the semester.  These Compositions are original expressions that will take the forms described below. These will also be discussed in class. See Appendix II below for the grading rubric for each composition.

Each Composition involves three parts:
(1) A “Pitch and Feedback” session- you (and your group, as appropriate) will describe what you are intending to do for the class and will receive feedback, be prepared to refer to your research or source material or an idea already richly explored
(2) A ‘Completed Draft’, which will be a fully completed version of your composition
(3) A Composition Description (see Appendix I) will be due the day you present each Composition. These 1-page descriptions are intended to deepen your critical engagement with your creative process.

Also, for composition #2, you are welcome to turn in a completed (optional) Confidential Peer Assessment, with feedback on your group activities.

These compositions are designed to build skills in collaboration and critique.  Compositions will require us to also consider not only the work itself, but how we will make it resonant, meaningful and appealing to an intended audience. As part of this process, we work throughout to identify our target audience.

Composition #1 – Visual representations of science &/or environment

In this first composition, you will work individually. The task with this composition is to visually tell a story about a selected science and/or environmental topic of your choice. You will use Instagram to tell your story.

To provide ideas/stimulus for your projects, you can take one of two options:
+ First, you can reach out to an environment- or science-related student group on campus and interview members of that group, take still photos and build a coherent narrative.

+ Second, you can participate in one of the CU Boulder Eco Engage fieldtrips offered in the Fall term before the assignment is due (October 3rd). More information is here. Check the webpages for dates/times/topics for fieldtrips as these may change. These are free to CU Boulder students but require you to sign up ahead of time, as spaces on these fieldtrips fill quickly. These are events focused on introducing first and second year students to new ideas, career paths, and internship opportunities.

Two Fall 2017 Eco Engage fieldtrips before the deadline:

  • Watershed to Waterspout

Friday, September 15, 12:30 - 5pm (deadline to register is Sept 13)

  • Food Deserts to Food Justice

Saturday, September 23, 10 am - 5 pm (deadline to register is Sept 20)

These are great opportunities to put together your visual storytelling project for composition #1 and also for you to plug in to CU Boulder activities. You can also choose something outside of these two events, just communicate early and often with your instructor and course assistant to be sure your choice is a good one for this project.

In class on Tuesday, September 5, you will begin work (if you haven’t started earlier) to interpret and plan to communicate the aspect of science and/or environment through visual storytelling in up to 20 still shots and captions (of up to 100 words each) depicted through Instagram. You may choose to start a new Instagram account, or to use one you may already have = these will be shared with others in the class so we can all follow along.

Before class on Tuesday, September 12, you will post one representative picture on this account to indication how you will be charting your path forward with composition #1. In class, you will share the pic, along with a ‘storyboard’ of your ideas to ‘pitch’ to the class for constructive feedback. Based on feedback from the class, you will then move forward with your project over the next weeks.

In class on Tuesday, October 3, you will have four minutes total to present your Completed Draft composition #1 to the class. At this session you will each also turn in a hard copy of your Composition Description and any Release Forms needed.

Composition #2 – Lens on Climate Change

In this second composition, we will be collaborating with Anne Gold, Lesley Smith, Erin Leckey and David Oonk from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) through the Lens on Climate Change (LOCC) project. Students in our class (FYSM students) will organize into teams of 2-3 and then connect with a LOCC middle school team located in the following Front Range schools: TBA. Students are ages 10-13 and will be working in groups of 6-8. Both LOCC and FYSM students in these connected projects will then also work with an assigned Science Mentor (TBA) from CU Boulder.

In class on Tuesday, October 10, FYSM teams will select from a list of climate change topics that LOCC groups have decided to work to communicate through their films. The FYSM teams will then meet in that session with the Science Mentors and begin to work to interpret and plan to communicate the aspect of climate change assigned to them through up-to-3-minute videos.

From there, FYSM teams will ‘storyboard’ their ideas and then participate in a ‘pitch & feedback’ session on Tuesday, October 17, charting a path forward with composition #1. Based on feedback from the class, you will then get to work on your films.

Before the Thursday, December 14 presentation deadline, there will be three designated check-in periods over the course of the interim six weeks:

  • conversation 1 (short video/vlog): Tuesday, October 31. In this first exchange, students from LOCC groups post first, introducing themselves and briefly discussing where they are from and their idea. FYSM students view this in class and then post a response.
  • conversation 2 (picture/video/vlog): Tuesday, November 14. In this second swap, FYSM and LOCC students will simultaneously post a picture/screenshot with a caption or a short video/interview/vlog of both groups talking about their production, what they have learned so far and how their idea has evolved/developed/changed.  
  • conversation 3 (video/rough cut): Tuesday, December 5. In this third conversation, FYSM students share their rough cut and LOCC students provide feedback. LOCC students share their storyboards, or visual outline, of their film and FYSM provide feedback. FYSM take feedback and make changes before final due date

FYSM projects will also be evaluated using the rubric in Appendix II. The Completed Draft compositions are limited to 2-3 mins. At the final screening session in class on Thursday, December 14th, you will each also turn in hard copies of your Composition Descriptionand a Confidential Peer Assessment. (In late March 2018, FYSM films will again be shown alongside the LOCC films and FYSM students can meet the LOCC students in person: before the Spring 2018 event, FYSM students will be invited to that screening event by Course Assistant David Oonk).

FYSM Science and Environmental Communication final project portfolio

From this collaborative work, each of you will assemble a Project Portfolio containing three+one=four items:

  • A description of process behind each of your two Compositions, and the research that went into them (approximately 1000 words total for each, approximately 2000 words total)
  • A recounting and interpretation of responses to your two Compositions from fellow participants in the class in ‘pitch & feedback’ and elsewhere (approximately 500 words each, 1000 words total)
  • Release forms for anyone who is featured in your compositions, even yourself (we will discuss this in class), please label what composition the release applies to and give a brief description when necessary (ex. young woman in yellow shirt in composition entitled “El Verde”)

+ONE: You will need to deliver documentation/recordings of each of the two compositions to course assistant David Oonk to place on our hard drive. More details to follow. To receive a final grade for the course, your compositions must be on this drive, clearly marked ‘composition_[x]_[title]_[lastname(s)]’. 
The same general criteria for assessment of these Final Project Portfolios will be those used for the Compositions (see Appendix II).