Polar ENgagement through GUided INquiry (PENGUIN)
Including climate-related topics in the classroom is crucial to the education of the next generation and has the potential to enhance student interest. The polar regions play an important role in climate change and are particularly sensitive to it, and the richness and interdisciplinary nature of polar research suggests its potential to enhance student learning in a wide variety of courses.
To address the challenge of educating students about polar research, we developed Polar ENgagement through GUided INquiry (PENGUIN) modules. PENGUIN modules use Excel, R Studio, or Jupyter Notebooks to give a wide variety of students, including both STEM and non-STEM majors, hands-on experience working with polar research.
We have developed PENGUIN modules (https://serc.carleton.edu/penguin/index.html) for a variety of topics: heat diffusion through permafrost, electromagnetic radiation and the greenhouse effect, trends in penguin populations, the heat required to melt Arctic sea ice, processing images of sea ice, economic valuation of the Arctic, investigating long-term climate through ice cores, and protecting communities from sea level rise exacerbated by polar ice melt. These modules have been taught in lower-level courses on Environmental Science, Physics, and Economics, and upper-level courses in Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics, and Computer Science. Modules can be modified for different courses and levels.
Survey results indicate that students (n~140) overall enjoyed the modules and reported gains in course knowledge, climate knowledge, comfort with the computational tool, and importance placed on polar regions in the context of climate change (p <0.01 for Mann-Whitney U-test on increase in median Likert-scale response). These sentiments were echoed by the professors who taught the modules, who also enjoyed engaging with peers, connecting to current research, and thinking about teaching. Next steps focus on further module development and testing student knowledge gains.