In the Trenches - January 2015

Volume 5, Number 1

In This Issue

Online Supplements This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. Members can follow the "Read more" links below to access full versions of the articles online. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches, join NAGT

Establishing an Elementary Foundation for Teaching Global Change

Mark S. McCaffrey, National Center for Science Education

I became smitten by the wonders of the universe viewed through the lens of science while in elementary school. In second grade, a fascination with dinosaurs opened my mind to deep time. My fourth grade class took a field trip to a power plant where coal brought by trains from Wyoming was burned to make steam to turn turbines to generate alternating current. The scale and scope of the plant, the massive turbines, smoke stacks, and piles of coal waiting incineration were intimidating and impressive. Around the same time, while exploring near the mouth of a canyon, my friends and I found a beautiful little oasis and waterfall on an intermittent creek. We were livid when one day not long afterward we discovered that a bulldozer constructing roads for a new mountain subdivision had deliberately destroyed our oasis. Children of the Space Race and Cold War, we had no doubt that humans had become a force of nature capable of altering, if not destroying, the planet. These experiences planted the seeds for my love of science and my career path. Read more...

The CAM Project: Tools for Bringing Student Media Production into Climate Change Education

Juliette N. Rooney-Varga, University of Massachusetts-Lowell; Angelica Allende Brisk, Cambridge Media Arts Studio; Mitch Schuldman, University of Massachusetts-Lowell; and Kenneth Rath, SageFox Consulting Group

Climate change education offers many challenges and opportunities that may not be encountered in other geoscience subdisciplines. In the cognitive domain, challenges include the inherent complexity and dynamic nature of climate change, as well as the prevalence of misconceptions, or faulty mental models, about the climate system (Forest and Feder, 2011). Additional challenges include psychological, affective, and social responses to information about climate change that can impede both discussion and learning (e.g., CRED, 2009). For example, Leviston et al (2013) describe the effect of "pluralistic ignorance," in which people who believe that human-induced climate change is occurring are reluctant to share that view with others because they mistakenly think they are in the minority. Read more...

Resources to Prepare Student for Climate Change

Cindy Shellito, Editor-in-Chief

Weather and climate figure prominently in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for both elementary and secondary students. For example, curricula informed by NGSS would challenge elementary students to make weather observations and begin to see connections between life and climate. In middle school, they would be expected to explore the evidence for rising temperatures in the past century. In high school, the NGSS recommend that students analyze climate data and climate model output to make forecasts for the future and discuss the relationships between various Earth systems and their responses to climate change. NGSS also offers many opportunities to integrate climate change with studies of other sciences. Read more...

Engaging Students Before, During, and After Visits to Informal Science Education Centers

Laura M. Guertin, Penn State Brandywine

Many of us had classroom field trips to museums and aquariums when we were students in grades K-12, where the typical visit was designed as a scavenger hunt to complete fill-in-the-blank worksheets. Surprisingly, there are very few published suggestions or guidelines that support teachers and university faculty who wish to go beyond the show-and-tell of looking at museum displays. Yet the importance of an effective science learning experience in informal environments is emphasized by the National Research Council (NRC, 2009) and National Science Teachers Association (NSTA, 2012). There exists a wealth of opportunities for student engagement before, during, and after visits to informal education centers. Here, I provide suggestions that are easily adaptable to various grade levels and useful to instructors wanting to move beyond the traditional model of a classroom museum visit. Read more...

Diving into the Trenches: Rules of Thumb for Teaching Controversial Issues

Don Haas, Paleontological Research Institution

The Paleontological Research Institution has a long history of nurturing understandings of controversial issues. Our Museum of the Earth is built around the interplay of the history of life and the history of Earth. That is a perspective of Darwinian evolution on a planet billions of years old. We have long worked to teach and help others teach about evolution (Allmon, 2009), climate change (Allmon, et al, 2010), and, for the last several years, about hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and the broader energy system (Duggan-Haas, et al, 2013). Importantly, the work related to fracking is done without advocating for or against the practice, both in deference to the promises made to our funders and because it makes good pedagogical sense. Drawing from this work and the related body of research, we have crafted rules of thumb for teaching about controversial issues. Read more...
  • For a full transcript of the presentation upon which this is based, presented in October 2014 at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, see:

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Web Features

NAGT, its members, and its sponsored projects have produced a number of resources related to the topics addressed in this issue.

Climate Education in an Age of Media (CAM) Project »

CAM engages students in the educational process by involving them in the creation of short films, animations, and video journalism related to climate change, integrating science with media literacy in ways that are readily adopted in a range of instructional environments.

Interdisciplinary Teaching about Earth for a Sustainable Future (InTeGrate) »

This is a community effort to improve geoscience literacy and build a workforce that is prepared to tackle societal issues. This 5 year project is a NSF STEP center grant and runs from 2012 through 2016, with many pathways for faculty involvement and collaboration.

Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) »

The CLEAN project, a part of the National Science Digital Library, provides a reviewed collection of resources coupled with the tools to enable an online community to share and discuss teaching about climate and energy science.

Earthlabs »

EarthLabs is an effort to develop a rigorous high school Earth science lab course. Several of the modules present a series of climate labs that address weather and climate not simply as atmospheric processes, but in the context of the interconnected Earth system, which includes the planet's oceans, landmasses, biosphere, and cryosphere (Earth's frozen places), as well as the atmosphere.

Site Guide: Climate Change and Global Warming »

Find resources and teaching materials such as activities, course descriptions, visualizations, and effective teaching methods from SERC projects and collaborators for teaching about climate, climate change, and sustainability across the curriculum.

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