Teaching Earth's Climate Using a Student Friendly Global Climate Model

Monday 3:15pm


Kimberly Carroll Steward, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Dave Gosselin, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Cory Forbes, The University of Texas at Arlington
Increasing consensus about anthropogenic changes to Earth's climate within the scientific community is not fully reflected in current public opinion, suggesting that work needs to be done in fostering climate literacy through formal k-12 education. However, teachers often feel challenged teaching this topic, and students' misconceptions often intensify these challenges regarding the complexities of climate. Recently using Socioscientific Issues (SSI)-based instruction has emerged as an effective pedagogy for teaching scientific topics, such as Earth's Climate, within a complex social and political framework. Furthermore, technological improvements have provided a unique opportunity for teaching climate science as global climate models (GCMs) are now accessible in the classroom, allowing students to participate in authentic science using computer-based computational models and data visualizations to explain and make projections about the Earth's future climate. Through analysis of multiple data sources, we aim to understand (1) how teachers implemented an SSI model-based climate curriculum, (2) how the integration of a cloud-based global climate model enhanced curriculum enactment, and (3) the student outcomes of this climate curriculum among two learning dimensions—conceptual and epistemic. We utilized classroom observations, teacher reflections, and teacher interviews; we have identified multiple strategies enacted by all three teachers which afforded their students positive technology-enhanced learning opportunities Teachers noted after teaching with the model they had a better understanding of climate data and how it is used in the preparation of climate models, feeling better prepared to teach this unit in the future. Analysis of student assessment data shows statistically significant differences in students' pre-/post-module assessment scores. Additionally, students demonstrated significantly increased scores among both learning dimensions: conceptual and epistemic. This evidence suggests positive impacts from teachers' curriculum implementation and indicates opportunities for authentic science learning may benefit the teachers by enabling them to further their understanding of GCC.