Evolution of GCMs and Super Mario

Thursday 3:00pm-3:20pm Weeks Geo: AB20
Teaching Demonstration

Session Chair

Ben Maas, Metropolitan State University


I can either do a PowerPoint presentation or create a poster presentation. I described the activity to a few people in last year's Rendezvous and it was well received.


The concept of global climate models, GCMs, is difficult for introductory environmental science students to grasp due to the global scale of thinking involved, fluxes, and simplifying assumptions. While the idea of GCMs and how they work is intimidating, video games such as Super Mario are easier for students to comprehend and relate to. Therefore this activity was designed to help students equate the evolution of GCMs to Super Mario during the last three plus decades as both have gone through dramatic shifts in capabilities, such as the transition from 2-dimensions to 3-dimensions. Pre-activity assessment of knowledge on the topic indicates a lack of understanding what GCMS are. Post-activity assessment through the use of minute questions, class discussions, and exam questions indicate an improved understanding of GCMs, flux, and simplifying assumptions that are made in models and video games alike.


Target audience is introductory classes and mid to upper level classes in the environmental science major. The activity is designed to help students better understand how models work

Why It Works

This activity is effective as it allows for complex concepts, such as movements of objects in 3-dimensions to be equated to more familiar concepts

Evolution of GCMs and Super Mario (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 4.4MB Jul21 16)

Related resource:

Demystifying Climate Models Gettelman and Road