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Thoughts on Activities  

This is the place to post your comments on the finished activities. Pretend that you are at a poster session, and please post at least 2 comments/questions as you would make comments to the people whose posters you are viewing.


Share edittextuser=3 post_id=2948 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

To Christa Farmer:

I love your activity. I can see how easily it would fit into my intro meteorology class and I will do this. I can see using the poster printer to make the charts to post on the wall, and your teacher notes are excellent.

I will be using this next semester!


Share edittextuser=2142 post_id=2959 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Hello all... unfortunately I don't have time to create a web page for my activity right now, but I do have some preliminary ideas. Here is my outline for what I envision doing next semester in my GEOL001 Intro to Physical Geology class (30-55 students, fixed seats and benches, stage in front). This introduction to the "fluid earth" (in the midst of mostly solid earth stuff) would take up 3 of my lecture periods. There is a stand-alone lab that looks at minerals, rocks, maps, and individual student presentations. This series of activities needs some more detailed fleshing out, but here's what I envision so far (I do a similar more extensive tank experiment in my upper-level Paleoclimatology class):

1) introductory demonstration ocean stratification (vs. atmospheric convection) (maybe use video of actual experiment so I don't have to schlep tank, etc across campus every day and deal with water in the lecture hall, and they can actually see what's going on??)
a) ~2x24x12in plexiglass tank filled with cold or room temperature water
b) add some dilute food dye (so it's not so much denser than the water that it just sinks anyway) to demonstrate that water is able to mix relatively freely by diffusion (during this slow part, some kind of discussion of heating the atmosphere from below, talking about air rising above a radiator, etc)
c) ask students to guess ("think, pair, share") what will happen when this "ocean" is heated by the "sun" (from above)
d) place immersion heater (small coil that boils a coffee cup in minutes) in top ~2inches of "ocean"
e) add more diluted dye
f) if all goes according to plan: stratification! there should be a clear surface convection cell, but no mixing with the deeper, colder ocean

2) ask students to hypothesize (TPS):
a) how the real ocean mixes to the bottom
b) how hurricanes would affect this scenario (?)
c) how hurricanes affect climate and vice versa

3) experiment part 2:
a) devise some kind of mixing device (probably just a small flat piece of plastic from tupperware or something glued to the end of a stick so it makes a 3D "T") and make analogy between mixing device and storms: what will happen to stratification if I "mix" upper third of tank (below level heated by electric coil)?
b) perform "mixing" experiment

3) student work with temperature profiles to look at actual hurricane-driven vertical mixing in the ocean (e.g. Sriver et al. 2007) and estimate heat transport deeper in the thermocline (??)

4) "lecturing" as needed throughout, never more than 15 min at a time...!

5) how in the world do I assess this?? I'm used to a multiple choice extravaganza in this class (sadly enough)... I think I'll stick with the same format but adopt a shorter test and administer it in two stages, including a collaborative session (as in Yuretich et al. 2001, JGE: "Active-Learning Methods to Improve Student Performance and Scientific Interest in a Large Introductory Oceanography Course"). I did try this once, but really wasn't prepared to make it work; I think the approach shows great promise but I need to think it through more carefully to implement it better.

Thanks for any feedback you all can give me on this!


Share edittextuser=2126 post_id=2960 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Live activities can be found here:

There are 7 of them as I write this, but more are coming in, hooray!


Share edittextuser=24 post_id=2961 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985


I like the premise of your activity, and only in part because it's the same premise I used. I think it's interesting that we approached it differently, but in essence are asking for the same critical thinking. I really like the link to that discussion from - I had forgotten about that but it would make a great reference for my activity as well.

I would make the following suggestion: Have you considered having your students look at Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE)? This is what the IPCC report used for their trend in hurricane analysis, and it shows a significant trend since 1970. Much more robust than the trend in major hurricanes. Please check my activity if you have any questions, and I'd be happy to point you to where I found data on Atlantic ACE.



Share edittextuser=2142 post_id=2962 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

I really like the activity submitted by Serena Poli: Investigating the Effect of Warmer Temperatures on Hurricanes - In fact, I may use it as a lead-in or preparatory activity for the one I posted - It allows students to investigate the connection between warm SSTs and hurricanes (my activity assumes that they already understand this). I think this activity is also easily tailored to an online class.


Share edittextuser=1087 post_id=2963 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

I like the fact that you will have your students look at actual model output! I sat through several wonderful graduate classes about climate in which we talked about models, and even sort of tried to write code (Marc Spiegelman's Myths and Methods in Modeling, where I learned most of what I know about physical oceanography from a mantle chemist!) but never actually looked at real model output. This seems like a great way for all those papers about modeling to make more sense for the students.


Share edittextuser=2126 post_id=2965 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Jenni - I really like your project. There are so many times that students don't put all of the information together to incorporate it as a big picture. Your project forces students to do that since it's a compilation of several weeks of material - well done!


Share edittextuser=1708 post_id=2966 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Hi Rob-
I'm looking at your IPCC prediction activity -- looks like a great thing to have students doing. I think this is an activity you've used in the past -- how do students do with it? Do you have some tips on how to help the students work through the data?


Share edittextuser=3 post_id=2967 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

I noted your instructions to your students regarding Wikipedia with great interest... it surprises me how many students think they can just list 3 Wikipedia sources and consider it "scholarly." I just had a session with one of our library professors for my GEOL005 students to prepare them for their research projects. He defined "scholarly articles" (at an introductory level) as having 3 characteristics: 1) written by experts in the field (usually indicated by institutional affiliation), 2) written for experts in the field, and 3) complete references to all work cited (as opposed to news and popular articles, which may list a couple references but not many). He believes anything beyond that (including the concept of "peer review") for introductory students just confuses them... I'm not sure I agree, but it is simpler...

Could you try setting up the distinction that way for your students, rather than relying on "hard copy" vs. website? So many real scientific journals (G-cubed, etc) don't really have paper copies anymore these days anyway!

It's great how you give the students the data and have them calculate trends, and make extrapolations...


Share edittextuser=2126 post_id=2968 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Hi Christa-
This looks like a great jigsaw. It seems like this activity helps make the connections between the box model version of the energy balance and the actual processes happening in different places on the Earth. That is hard for students I think. Sounds like they are better at visualizing movement of energy after they do the exercise. Does it also help them understand the box model better?


Share edittextuser=3 post_id=2969 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Hi Cindy-
I'm really interested to see how you have the students work with the model. It is particularly nice to see how you have them consider what kind of model it is, what it is testing, and what constitutes equilibrium. Have you tried this before? I'm curious how easily they can get their feet on the ground and understand what they are looking at.

Going to the literature afterward seems like a nice way to get them beyond generating their own ideas and into the scientific community. Nice to scaffold their reading of the articles.

Thanks for taking so much care with the write up.



Share edittextuser=3 post_id=2971 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

"...I think this is an activity you've used in the past -- how do students do with it?"

Hi, Cathy! Thanks for your kind thoughts!

Yes -- I've used this activity each semester since F'05 -- I developed it as an outgrowth of the SERC Course Development online class which I took during that summer. As far as how well students do with it, to be honest, I get very emotional about seeing how engaged students get with the project -- it makes me glad I chose the career I did. During the following class, we build up on the Smartboard a table of individual working groups' responses to the queries, and the whole group gets engaged in discussions about trends, variations, outliers. It reinforces what we can do and can't do with scientific investigation. I then ask them to project themselves in the role of policymakers -- say a planning commission member in Miami or Galveston -- and invite them to speak about to what extent our collective uncertainty should inhibit good policymaking. All in all, I'm thrilled with how well this wraps up that unit's inquiry.

"Do you have some tips on how to help the students work through the data?"

Actually, not really. I find I have better success when I create 'cookbook recipes' for the Excel part of the activity rather than saying simply "Draw a linear regression line." However, by this time in the semester, the students are pretty facile with online data extraction and simple Excel tasks. They jump right into it. Moving to Office 07 last fall has thrown a curveball at our collective comfort levels with Excel -- more for me than for the students! -- but we'll get over it. As I mentioned to Dave D. several days ago, I typically have a few computer wizards in the class, so peer mentoring tends to be a resource we utilize pretty regularly.



Share edittextuser=444 post_id=2972 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

To Chris Van de Ven,

I just got your activity live and I like it because it guides the students through a process to answer their initial hypotheses about hurricane frequency. You address similar types of hypotheses and questions that my students have. I am wondering if I could adapt the activity and simplify it for my online course.


Share edittextuser=24 post_id=2973 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Also to Chris Van de Ven -- I really like how you've configured you entire activity around hypothesis construction and testing. I don't think we've done enough of that in our classes over the years.



Share edittextuser=444 post_id=2974 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Bill Rose-

Nice work on the Lake Effect Snow. What I really like about this is it moves students beyond sniping at the weatherman about how they missed the forecast to understanding what is hard about forecasting. The parallel activity here would be to try and predict where the freezing rain line will be in a particular storm.

Nice write up.



Share edittextuser=3 post_id=2975 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Thanks for the enthusiastic response. I think your activity will get more use if you put some more of this in the cover sheet. Perhaps the five analysis questions. Some tips from your post about managing the data analysis. and something about what you are looking for in the assessments. I'd also add something about how the students get engaged and carry the assignment beyond what you expect.

Karin, we should put a link to his presentation from the activity sheet when you get a chance.


Share edittextuser=3 post_id=2976 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Nice work on Hurricane Tracking. This shares with Lake Effect Snow the notion that you have them doing the same thing the weatherman on the TV does -- making a prediction about strengthening or weakening. Again I like that because it helps them understand both how this is done and when/why it is hard. Do they make the connection to the weatherman?


Share edittextuser=3 post_id=2978 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Rob, I really look forward to trying your "Confirmation of IPCC Prediction re: Increased Storminess" exercise!

In looking through your list of things that the students have learned before trying this, I'm wondering, does anyone have any great ideas for making the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship "come alive" in the same way Dave has used his bike tire to demonstrate the meaning of the Gas Law? I've started collecting sling psychrometer humidity data in different weather settings throughout the semester with my Field Methods students a few times but never really made it into anything exciting...


Share edittextuser=2126 post_id=2983 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Hi Lisa - I'm thinking about adapting your hurricane activity for a lab when I teach Intro Met again next fall...I often discuss the current situation if there is an developing tropical cyclone - But we don't get into the details of hurricanes until later in the semester, after the students have had more background on wind, stability, convection, etc. (and after the hurricane season is essentially over!) I like the idea of bringing the data analysis in early in the class.


Share edittextuser=1087 post_id=2985 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

Cathy - thanks for your comments.
I have often had my students look at climate model results - although, I admit I'm still trying to find the most effective way to do it! The activity I posted will be used in my Climatology class - we've been looking at basically the same model results all semester - I spend a class period to introduce the website and model results at the beginning of the semester (and some of these introductory aspects, I've included in the activity I posted)...I've also used GCM results (as well as simpler energy-balance models) in a class with non-meteorology majors. I find that students either really enjoy it, or really dislike it. Those who dislike tend to feel that way (I think) because they need a bit more guidance in looking at results - or they still aren't grasping the connection between the model and the real world...


Share edittextuser=1087 post_id=2986 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

If by "box model" you mean figures like Fig 1 in IPCC AR4 WG1 ( or Fig 3-19 in Kump, Kasting, Crane "The Earth System," I do think this jigsaw helps them understand the meaning of those "spaghetti plots." The analogy of money coming into and going out of a bank account (something they're more familiar with) really helps too. The idea that "money is conserved" resonates more than "energy is conserved"...


Share edittextuser=2126 post_id=2987 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=985

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