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InTeGrate's Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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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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Module Overview

Module goal:
Understand that climate impacts human societies and that the climate system has interacting components complicated by feedbacks, uncertainties, and human behavioral decisions.

Outline

Unit 1 - Forecasting climate variability and change: a matter of survival

In Unit 1, students engage in discussion regarding the topics of climate variability and climate change by first reading an article about the impacts of changes on human society and cultures in the past. Class discussion is facilitated by a gallery walk and focuses on examining the differences between climate change and climate variability (forced vs. unforced change) the different cultures, and the causes of climate change. Unit 2 - Deciphering short term climate variability

Unit 2 introduces students to the concept of short term climate variability through an examination of atmospheric and oceanic data. In Case Study 2.1, students try to identify patterns in data depicting the cyclic changes in tropical Pacific climate associated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation. This is appropriate for an in-class group activity. A supplemental activity that may be used for homework or a lab exercise, Case Study 2.2, provides students with data from the North Atlantic, and guides them in identifying cyclic changes associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation.

Unit3 - Anomalous behavior

In Unit 3 students examine the ENSO system as a pattern and analyze ocean surface maps. Case Study 3.1 asks students to predict the spatial parameters of La Niña based on data maps of El Niño and ENSO normal conditions. They then relate these patterns to weather conditions experienced by people living in the Tropical Pacific. Case Study 3.2 leads students to build a timeline of ENSO events from a time-series of global ocean SST maps. They then consider the predictability of this system and its potential interaction with other ocean surface oscillations.

Unit 4- Slow and steady?

In Unit 4 students consider changes in the Greenland ice sheet and the uncertainty in predicting future changes. Case study 4.1, appropriate for use as an in-class group activity, uses albedo data from different elevations on the ice sheet. Case study 4.2 is a supplemental activity, appropriate for use as a lab or homework exercise, and focuses on area changes of several Greenland marine terminating outlet glaciers.

Unit 5 - systems@play

Unit 5 leads students to explore our climate system first-hand by becoming part of the climate system in a role-playing game and examining glacial climate records. The students perform a climate model simulation, taking on themselves the 'role' of a climate attribute in Case Study 5.1. After graphing long-term methane data, students compare this trend with those of other greenhouse gases and predict the impact of future atmospheric and human behavioral changes in Case Study 5.2.

Unit 6 - Adapting to a changing world

In Unit 6, students assess individual and national opinions on climate change and explore strategies that communities are employing to adapt to aspects of climate change that are already affecting them and may affect them in the future. Unit 6 is appropriate for use as a small group or entire class activity.

Making the Module Work

Adapting the Climate of Change module to your courses will require consideration of the following issues:

Once you have considered these issues, we encourage you to evaluate which of the adaptation strategies below would be most suitable for your instructional needs, keeping in mind that additional adaptation of materials will probably be necessary for your course.

Adapting the Module to Different Courses

Liberal Arts Setting: Environmental Geology at Earlham College. This 25-person course utilized the module during the last 2 weeks of a 15-week semester. The course functions as an introduction to the geology major, but the vast majority of students take the course to fulfill general education (science & math) requirements. This course meets four times per week (one meeting is a 3-hr laboratory) and completed the entire module - with four of the activities completed during two lab meetings.

Lecture Hall Setting: General Meteorology at the University of Northern Colorado. The module was used over two weeks in an introductory meteorology course with 55 students in a lecture hall. Most of the students were enrolled in the course to satisfy their Liberal Arts Core curriculum requirement. The entire module was adapted to the course setting, and supplemental activities were incorporated into the weekly lab meeting, with activities 2.2 and 3.2 combined into one lab, and 4.2 and 5.2 combined into another lab activity.

Community College Setting: Introduction to Oceanography at Mt. San Antonio College. The module was used in an introductory oceanography course at a community college. The majority of the 38 students enrolled were non-science majors taking the course to satisfy their General Education physical science requirement necessary for transfer. This was a lecture course held during an accelerated winter intersession in which a 16-week course is implemented in 6 weeks. Since the course lacked a separate lab section, the supplemental activities (2.2, 3.2, 4.2, and 5.2) were not used.




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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 »