Cutting Edge > Develop Program-Wide Abilities > Complex Systems > Teaching Activities > Global Patterns

Global Patterns

Federica Raia
,
University of California, Los Angeles
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Summary

Based on my research on how best to enhance students' understanding of complex systems, I utilize various activities to support pattern recognition, a fundamental skill to understanding complex systems behavior. For example, students examine data of soil moisture, insolation, surface temperature, cloud fraction, precipitation, world topography/bathymetry, aerosol optical thickness, and biosphere (from different times of the year) to identify patterns of distribution and variation at regional and global scales. The data are taken from NOAA, NASA, SERC, and NSIDC.

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Context

Audience

Undergraduate Earth System Science course for science majors

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have basic map reading skills, be able to identify latitude and longitude and to find the Equator, and know the names of the continents.

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity is used toward the end of the semester

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will understand:

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Students working in groups are initially assigned to one of the data set–expert groups. Students identify and describe patterns both on spatial and temporal scales. Students write a report on the patterns observed and the research question they raised and then formulate a hypothesis using the distribution of the other data sets used by the other groups. Students are then asked to form new groups where at least one expert on each data set is present. Students are then asked to work with all the data sets, describing global patterns and connections among different phenomena measured on local, regional and global scales. They choose one specific pattern and write a report.

This activity has been modified from the GLOBE Earth System Posters. See the activities to accompany the 2007 GLOBE poster for the GLOBE activity description (activities 1-5).

Determining whether students have met the goals

Student's presentation and reports are evaluated based on the ability to describe data, describe patterns, interpret patterns based on the evidence, identifying emergent processes and complex interaction among the Earth spheres.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

The Globe Program

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