Kirsten Menking, Carletone College Science Education Resource Center
In this activity students use the STELLA program to create hierarchies of models of increasing complexity to understand the absorption of solar energy by the Earth and its radiation of that energy back to space. They first assume that Earth is a perfect black body lacking an atmosphere, then move on to incorporate the fact that Earth reflects much of the solar radiation incident upon it, and later incorporate the fact that Earth has an atmosphere. The activity was designed to introduce dynamical systems modeling to upper level undergraduate students, and helps convey the importance of starting out simply when creating models and adding complexity gradually. Learning goals, context for use, teaching tips, materials, assessment tips and related resources are provided.