Global Warming and You

This activity was developed for the Teaching About Earth's Climate Using Data and Numerical Models workshop, held in October 2011.
Dawn Cardace
University of Rhode Island, Department of Geosciences
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This project is to build a concept map that represents the individual's relationship with the Earth System and the ways in which individual actions impact climate. This is at once the first and final activity of the course, a way to encourage students to articulate preconceptions about climate change and global warming, delineate where they see the line between natural and anthropogenic factors in climate change, and assess how their comprehension evolves over the course of the semester. The strengths of the activity rest in (a) early introduction of the concept map/sketch to students who may not have constructed them before, (b) providing a snapshot of student understanding at the beginning of the class, (c) encouraging evaluation of learning and revision of knowledge base by the student, (d) providing space for the student's larger interests in climate to be expressed in what is primarily a course focused on the science of climate change.

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300-level GEO course entitled "Global Warming," taken as an elective by majors, non-majors, and teachers in training.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must be able to:
  • build a concept sketch confidently

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the first and last activity on the syllabus, referenced periodically throughout the course. Instructor should monitor student understanding of and perceptions of climates over time and the current warming of Earth's climate.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • CONTENT GOALS: principles of climate change, carbon cycle, energy balance
  • CONCEPT GOALS: current warming in context

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Self examination and critical evaluation of scientific understanding of climate change--identifying what I do and do not know.
  • Assessment of knowledge base.

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Effective visual communication.
  • Group building in the course.

Description of the activity/assignment

Possible pre-course reading of the Introduction of:
"Smart Solutions to Climate Change: Comparing Costs and Benefits" Ed. Bjørn Lomborg
Global Warming and You--handout (Microsoft Word 44kB Oct27 10)

Determining whether students have met the goals

Evaluation can be based on a comparison of the first and final versions of the concept map using a rubric (courtesy of SERC material, authored by Michael Zeilik, Dept of Physics & Astronomy, University of New Mexico, []) to assess organization and content. I'd also like to pair this with a discussion about whether the concept map 'worked' for the students, was satisfying, and reflected their changing understanding. I may do this as a whole group, or send a brief email survey.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs