InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Climate of Change > Unit 5: systems@play
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Unit 5 systems@play

Cynthia M. Fadem, Earlham College (fademcy@earlham.edu)

This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Jun 24, 2014

Summary

In this unit students explore ways of knowing the climate system. The activities require them to engage in climate modeling and ice core data analysis, and reflect on the challenges our future poses. You can utilize the teaching collection here as a stand-alone day of instruction or as part of the complete Climate of Change InTeGrate Module.

Learning Goals

Unit 5 Teaching Objectives

Unit 5 Learning Outcomes

Context for Use

I designed this unit to function as one day of instruction in an introductory geology, meteorology, geography, or environmental science class. The lecture is customizable for different teaching needs, and the activities can be done in class, completed together as a lab, or completed as part(s) of a lab, depending on time and topical needs. As a standalone teaching collection, it introduces the concepts of climate science, climate records, and climate modeling in lecture instruction, and links climate modeling and ice core data with concerns for the future in class activities. In the Climate of Change InTeGrate Module, it follows introduction to and change in Greenland glaciers in Unit 4 and precedes discussion of mitigation and adaptation to climate change in Unit 6.

Description and Teaching Materials

The materials for this unit include a student reading, lecture, activities, and a study guide. The lecture is optional. I recommend assigning the reading as preparation for class and using the lecture to lead a short discussion (or debrief students without the lecture) before beginning the activities in case students have questions on the reading. I designed these activities as a guided examination of climate records and the nature of scientific inquiry. You can implement the activities in class, in lab, or as homework. If you are teaching an introductory course, I recommend that they be done in class or in lab, since they differ from one another and the concepts can be difficult for introductory students to process in isolation.

Unit 5 Lecture
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Teaching Notes and Tips

The greatest barriers you will face in teaching this unit will be resistance to climate science and fear of climate data and numerical analysis. Breaking these barriers is difficult and may not be possible, depending on your student population. The unit materials are all designed to help you in this endeavor, beginning with reintroducing the concept and advantage of science and climatology's place therein during the lecture. The way you discuss these issues is at your discretion. The materials focus on systems relationships rather than politics, helping both you and the students to circumvent some boundaries, rather than breaching them. Depending on your students' preoccupation with climate politics, keeping them focused may be how you spend your time during activities.

There are many resources listed below and on the associated activity pages to help you help your students.

Assessment

I recommend that you use the Unit 5 activities formatively, so students can develop their understanding, ask questions, and learn by trial in class with you and their peers. I conduct the activities as in-class group work, but they could be individual as long as students are provided enough reference material.

Summative assessment questions:

* Sketch and label a feedback diagram associated with increasing the level of atmospheric CO2. Indicate on the diagram if the feedback from increasing CO2 is positive or negative. Explain the importance of these feedbacks in understanding uncertainties in projections of future climate.

List the datasets displayed on this graph from the ACIA 2004 report. How do these data relate to one another? Describe their possible implications for our future.

Climate models involve

A. known climate interactions.

B. known climate thresholds.

C. known climate feedbacks.

D. many possible outcomes.

E. all of the above

Humans have the power to affect climate change by

A. decreasing the amount of incoming solar radiation, which causes cooling.

B. increasing the amount of incoming solar radiation, which causes warming.

C. adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which cause warming.

D. adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which cause cooling.

E. no possible means.

Student Self-Assessment

To provide an opportunity for students to reflect on what they have learned in Unit 5, at the end of this unit ask students to write on an index card one thing that they feel they have learned in this unit, or that seems particularly clear, and one thing that still seems confusing, unclear, or incomplete. Collect the cards, and use them to determine what aspects of the topic might need to be revisited in another class.

Students can also test their knowledge by completing the Unit 5 outcome tasks. These can be adapted in Blackboard/Moodle to a quiz or set of open-ended questions.

  • List and describe climate system processes that complicate its interpretation.
  • Explain the connection between climate records, human choices, and climate projections.
  • Interpret a graph of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration.
  • Describe the structure of a climate model, and the connection between the climate system we know and our possible futures.

References and Resources

Climate science

Thinking/teaching/learning about uncertainty and the environment


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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »