Becca Walker: Using Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes in Introduction to Oceanography at Mt. San Antonio College
About this course
An introductory oceanography course with the majority of students being non-science majors
Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 225kB Nov30 15)
I used the Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes module in my introductory oceanography course. I have been trying to gradually replace the traditional, more static lab and classroom exercises with labs and in-class work that facilitate students working with contemporary, authentic oceanographic data with an emphasis on quantitative reasoning and consideration of the complexity of ocean/atmosphere/cryosphere/biosphere interaction. I also feel as though I always run out of time to cover the societal/human aspects of oceanography. Thus, developing the Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes module served two important purposes within my curriculum: the module provides students with opportunities to work collaboratively in interpreting ice, sea level, and temperature data, and it also prompts students to think about how sea level changes are already influencing and will continue to influence civilization.
The complexity and sheer volume of data used in the module challenged my students as they attempted to make predictions about changes in Greenland's ice mass. Units 2, 3, and 4 were helpful in showing them that math (in this case, rate of change calculations) can be applied to societally-relevant scientific problems. Many students were initially confused at the end of Unit 4 when they concluded that the SE Greenland study site is experiencing a sea level drop despite tremendous ice mass loss, but this was immediately followed by an "aha moment" when they remembered that most of the world is not glaciated and therefore not experiencing isostatic rebound. They were particularly interested in sea level rise's threat to infrastructure in Southern California and New York City (Unit 5) and engaged in a thoughtful and contentious whole-group discussion about steps that should be taken to adapt to sea level rise.
My Experience Teaching with GETSI MaterialsModifications to the module that I made during testing (all due to time constraints):
1. Unit 1: No modifications
2. Unit 2: In the introductory PowerPoint slides, I only had students brainstorm and did not use the last couple of slides about measured contributions vs. observed rates of sea level rise.
3. Unit 3: Did not utilize the majority of the discussion slides. The only mechanism that we discussed was increased surface melting leading to moulin formation and increased meltwater draining to the bottom of the glacier.
4. Unit 4: Did not do the supplemental calculation exercise on Helheim Glacier's contribution to global sea level. Did not discuss sea level changes since the LGM.
5. Unit 5: Rather than a gallery walk, students read the New York City and California case studies during class and answered discussion questions in small groups.
Relationship of GETSI materials to my course
My course was 16 weeks long. The module was implemented during the last four class meetings of the semester and constituted approximately 10.25 hours of in-class time. Earlier in the semester, students had been introduced to the concepts of thermal expansion, relative and eustatic sea level changes, and anomalies.
In addition to the cognitive, behavioral, and affective learning objectives in each unit, my primary goals in implementing the Ice Mass and Sea Level Change module were to get my students to work collaboratively in interpreting real scientific data sets, generate student interest in changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet and implications for sea level change, and make them aware of the complexity and uncertainty that accompanies the study of the Earth system. In my opinion, the 2.5 weeks of class time during which we worked on the module were some of the most interactive and engaging class meetings of the semester. The emphasis on data interpretation, small-group discussions, and whole-group brainstorming sessions meant that lecture was kept to an absolute minimum. I am also really excited about the progress that they made in making rate of change calculations and synthesizing multiple data sets to make predictions about changes in Greenland's ice mass.