Model-Based Teaching and Learning about Earth's Climate in Secondary Science Classrooms
Teaching and learning about Earth's climate and global climate change (GCC) is increasingly emphasized in secondary science classrooms in the US to help students develop understanding, communicate, and make informed decisions about Earth's climate and GCC. Guiding documents such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and Climate Literacy Principles (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2009) foreground the importance of climate literacy and science and engineering practices in science classrooms. Over the past 3 years, through a NSF-funded project, we have developed, implemented, and assessed the impact of a three-week, model-based curriculum module in secondary science classrooms. In alignment with NGSS, this curriculum engages students in authentic exploration of the Earth's climate and GCC through the use of a computer-based modeling tool grounded in authentic climate data. Through a comprehensive, mixed-methods, longitudinal research program, we have assessed 1) ways do teachers implement the project curriculum, 2) why they implement it in the ways that they do, and 3) the nature of and impacts on students' learning. Findings show that while the project curriculum was primarily built to highlight the practice of using climate models, teachers focus on describing model construction as well. They brought external resources than those written specifically for the curriculum. Students who experience the curriculum are able to use the modeling tool to make predictions, hypothesize, and explain phenomena related to Earth's climate and GCC, using embedded simulations within the model to identify, obtain, and process relevant data. They effectively create graphs and visualizations to reason about and construct explanations for the phenomenon of increase in surface temperatures. Findings from this research have important implications for our ongoing efforts to refine the curriculum module and support teachers, as well as the field's understanding of teaching and learning about Earth's climate system and GCC.
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