Recruiting, Retention, Diversity & Teaching About Climate Change

Friday 1:30pm-4:00pm Weeks Geo: AB20
Oral Session

Session Chairs

Carrie Nelms, University of Arkansas Main Campus
David Reed, University of Wisconsin-Madison
1:30pm
Student interest in science during the transition from K-12 to college and after taking a single science course
David Reed, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Emily Kaplita, Dickinson College
David A. McKenzie, Emporia State University
Rachel Jones, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Mark Lyford, University of Wyoming

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Students often enter college with preconceived notions about science. Certain misconceptions, coupled with a potential for a limited number of science classes during college for non-science majors, can make correcting misconceptions a very daunting challenge. In order to efficiently commutate complex science issues that our society needs to collectively understand and deal with, such as climate science, instructors need to better understand the student experiences that have created their preconceived notions. In many cases, a lack of data about student's experiences leads to instructors simply guessing at how students are thinking about and interacting with science. Student surveys were used in our work to quantify pre-college experiences in order to examine the transitions from the K-12 environment into college. Surveys were given to nearly 400 students across 3 different schools in the Oklahoma City Metro area. Students show an increase in their interest in science throughout their educational careers and significant differences are shown in how students interact with science in different settings (classroom, with family/friends or on their own). Student interest in multiple aspects of science (knowledge of science content and the scientific process, science's impact on society, lab and field work) is also shown to be a potential problem as the quantifiable aspect of science (mathematics and statistical analysis) has higher negative interest. Finally, these results are combined with results from another study that shows the strong impact that one science course for non-science-majors can have on student attitudes towards science is persistent in time after the course. While students may have a limited amount of time to learn complex science topics, here we show that even non-science-major students are interested in science coming into college and more interested after taking a science course. Our collective educational efforts can have a meaningful and lasting impact on our students.
1:45pm
Drawing Diverse Students into your Class
John McDaris, Carleton College
Cathy Manduca, Carleton College

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Broadening the diversity of students learning about the Earth is of fundamental importance if society is to meet the resource and environmental challenges facing it. The perspectives of groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines are valuable in solving critical Earth-related issues. In addition, many employers that need geoscience expertise are expecting large shortfalls in qualified employees in the near future. A strong strategy for developing these new workers is to increase the participation of underrepresented minority students in courses and programs where they can learn the necessary skills and knowledge. This is hard, but people are doing it. The Science Education Resource Center has been collaboratively developing tools and materials to help faculty attract new students to STEM programs of study for over a decade. These collaborations have resulted in suites of resources and exemplars that demonstrate successful models in a variety of contexts. There are many components that can be involved (such as demonstrating the relevance to students' lives, using active pedagogies, or developing a sense of community among students in a program). So the examples of how other educators and institutions have achieved success are particularly valuable for those engaged in broadening the geoscience pool. This talk will showcase examples of successful activities and strategies from across several projects involved in diversifying geoscience and STEM.
2:00pm
Student Interest is the Strongest Determinant of Success in Introductory College Courses Related to Environmental Science
Nick Balster, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Melanie Spero, California Institute of Technology

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This study examined how student background impacts learning by assessing four predictive aspects of academic performance in environmental science college courses: student interest in environmental science previous environmental science education childhood exposure to the environment childhood residence setting Nearly 800 students were surveyed in 12 environmental science college courses to determine which aspects of background predict success (measured by final grade) in the course. Interest in the natural environment was found to be the strongest predictor of success, where students that reported greater interest in the natural environment had increased odds of academic success. Childhood residence setting was also strongly related of student success, where students that grew up in increasingly rural communities showed an increase in their odds of academic success. Additionally, one demographic question, class rank, was shown to predict success, with higher ranked students (e.g. seniors) more likely to succeed than lower ranked students (e.g. freshmen). Conversely, previous environmental science education and childhood exposure to the environment were not found to predict the final grade in environmental science college courses. While instructors cannot influence the types of communities their students comes from or their students' class ranks, it is important to be aware of these disparities and adjust teaching or institutional practices as needed. Moreover, these data suggest revising some long held assumptions of motivation and student learning. Ultimately, these findings may help instructors identify at-risk students and also inform teaching practices that support learning for all students regardless of background.
2:15pm
Ethnogeology, to Inform Place-Based and Culturally Inclusive Geoscience Teaching
Steven Semken, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
Carolina Londoño, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
Angel Garcia, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus
Elizabeth Brandt, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus

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Ethnogeology is the scientific study of human relationships with (including systems of knowledge related to) the Earth system, typically conducted in the context of a specific community or culture, such as an Indigenous nation. Ethnogeological research synthesizes field- and laboratory-based and bibliographic methods from both geoscience (e.g., mapping, stratigraphy, materials analyses, environmental chemistry) and ethnography (e.g., participant observations, interviews, participatory mapping). It is important that such research be conducted ethically, with meticulous regard for cultural integrity and intellectual property rights of indigenous or historically resident people. This is best accomplished through participatory means, whereby local experts and community members become co-researchers rather than subjects of study. The findings of ethnogeologic research in indigenous communities are typically and variously referred to as Native science, traditional knowledge, or traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Such knowledge is often more in-depth than mainstream science because of its place-based nature. In consultation with appropriate cultural experts, ethnogeological findings can and have already been used to inform place-based and culturally inclusive geoscience curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment, in concert with "western" or Euro-American scientific knowledge. Neither domain of knowledge is intended to epistemologically validate the other; instead, both are thoughtfully synthesized to enhance relevance and interest for culturally diverse students who are often underrepresented in geoscience. We illustrate these operating principles with specific examples (knowledge and pedagogical applications) from our ongoing ethnogeologic studies in the Southwestern United States, the Colombian Amazon, the Caribbean Basin, and elsewhere in Latin America.
2:30pm
Break
2:45pm
Environmental Communicators: Bridging the Attitude-Behavioral Gap in the Science of Science Communication
Carrie Nelms, University of Arkansas Main Campus

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"The science of climate change is not 'a problem' waiting for 'a solution,' rather, it is an environmental, cultural and political phenomenon which is re-shaping the way we should think about ourselves, our societies and humanity's place on Earth" (Hulme, 2009). Climate change could be the most overwhelming threat to our civilization; however, current Pew Polls (2015) are reflecting this issue is not the public's most relevant concern. The public's education over climate science literacy i.e. the earth's energy balance, enhanced greenhouse effect, sea-level rise, desertification, weather opposed to climate, etc. is not predominately learned from scholarly scientific journals, but from the mass media (Wilson, 2000). The results of a pilot study conducted on science teachers educating students on climate change showed 56% of teachers are educating students on climate change (Dawson, 2012). The United Nations (2010) claimed that young people do not receive environmental information from formal education but from the media. There is an abundance of evidence supporting a gap between scholars and practitioners in climate change education and communication. The need exists for a climate science teaching intervention to bridge climate science literacy to culturally diverse audiences. This research discusses the development of an interdisciplinary teaching intervention to produce individuals that would increase their environmental literacy and communication; furthermore, close the gap between pro-environmental attitude and low cost environmental change. The teaching intervention encompasses research covering the top science teaching pedagogues incorporated into 3 modules (climate science case study, audience analysis theory, group project development) that have been test piloted in the Fall of 2015. The focus of this teaching intervention addresses the young millenial's environmental awareness since this is the generation that will be impacted the most from climate change. The teaching interventions outcome will be to increase millennial's environmental literacy and awareness, increase their willingness to communicate about environmental issues, and increasing their abilities to construct better listener adapted messaging toward designated stakeholders.
3:00pm
Instructional Approaches for Teaching Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Socio-Environmental Issues
Julie Lambert, Florida Atlantic University
Alana Edwards, Florida Atlantic University
Colin Polsky, Florida Atlantic University

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Florida Atlantic University's Center for Environmental Studies and the College of Education's Department of Teaching and Learning have collaborated on a variety of educational projects aimed at increasing climate literacy of high school and university students, as well as preservice and practicing teachers. This presentation highlights three projects developed over the past few years. Climate Science Investigations (CSI) (http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/), is an online, interactive series of modules that provides an innovative framework for teaching and learning about climate science. The curriculum is designed to enable students to analyze data available through various sources (e.g., NASA, NOAA, National Snow and Ice Data Center, U.S. Drought) and utilize tools (e.g., ArcGIS, Google Earth, Digital Coast) to address common questions and about climate change. Climate Science Evidence-Based Argumentation is an instructional approach developed by Lambert and Bleicher (2014) to teach students about climate change and how scientific knowledge is accumulated over time. Students are assigned a typical argument of skeptics and asked to refute it through research and development of an evidence-based scientific argument. South Florida Rising Tides: Should I Stay or Should I Go? is a case study developed as part of a short-course, Teaching Through Socio-Environmental Case Studies, at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis, Maryland. Socio-environmental case studies combine data and methods from the natural and social sciences to prepare students to address complex, transdisciplinary environmental problems. Each student assumes the role of a citizen scientist living in one of four south Florida counties. Each student is also assigned to a county/city committee and to one of three stakeholder perspectives––water managers, residents, and business leaders. Using the cooperative learning jigsaw approach, students alternate meeting in county and stakeholder teams to analyze current articles, data, and GIS maps to identify the specific sea level-related problems, socio-environmental impacts, and adaptation strategies.
3:15pm
Elementary Schools Driving Community Climate Action
Dave Finnigan, Climate Change is Elementary - GreenActionPBC

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In 23 schools in 5 states (NY, NJ, CT, MA, MD) we have tested a program with nationwide implications. Short video at https://youtu.be/1cSgeK7FnUQ Climate Change is Elementary, is presented in K-5 or K-8 schools because Elementary students can get their parents back in the evening for Family Night. In one day our outside presenter gets teachers, students and over half the parents in a school to accept the urgency of the problem and, to fill out and pledge to follow a Green Action Checklist of all the things they promise to do to reduce their carbon and water footprints. http://bit.ly/1yvfmB7 Seat belt use, recycling, anti-smoking, anti-littering all started in elementary schools with highly publicized educational programs using outside presenters to get schools involved. We are ready to do the same with climate change. The problem so far is follow-through by families. The reward system we are working on and the next logical step for our program is to tie the Green Action Checklist to vendors of products and services found on the list, so that the vendor gives a rebate to the "Green Team" at the school every time a family makes a qualifying purchase. We won top prize for this idea in the 2014 MIT Climate CoLab Youth Action Contest. http://bit.ly/1Rc6TL8 Our theme for the program is "As we green our homes we'll green our schools." Schools involve all the local solar installers, energy auditors, hardware chains and other businesses selling products or services found on the Green Action Checklist. We could employ literally hundreds of college grads to go from school to school all over the country with this program. We have not been able to find any interest in our home state of Florida, so we will go anywhere to get this program designed, tested and launched.
3:30pm
Discussion