InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Modeling Earth Systems
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Sep 15, 2017

Summary

In this course, we develop the qualitative and quantitative tools for constructing, experimenting with, and interpreting dynamic models of different components of the Earth system. The integrated set of ten modules within this course explores a range of systems that all relate to the dynamics of Earth's climate, including interactions with humans. The course is aimed at an intermediate-level geoscience student with some knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, which form the foundation for building and understanding computer models of these systems.

Strengths of the Course

  • By building and working with models of the climate system, population growth, water resources, and the intersections between climate change and economic systems, students will develop the ability to integrate information from a variety of disciplines, including geosciences, biology, physics, chemistry, and economics. Further, students will be asked to apply the results of their models to societal problems.
  • Using models in this way explicitly encourages the use of prediction and experimentation as ways of learning. Modeling also fosters quantitative and analytical thinking. Finally, models allow students to simulate processes that occur over geologic time.
  • Geoscience data will be used as the initial conditions for some systems models, for example the pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Geoscientific data will also be used as points of comparison for model output in other units, for example, students will compare General Circulation Model outputs to records of surface warming over the past several decades.
  • The use of visually-based models helps students to see connections between different parts of dynamic systems. Students will be asked to make predictions about model (system) behavior over time, and analyze results in the context of 1) the specific system being modeled and 2) how and why predictions may have differed from results.

A great fit for courses in:

  • Climatology
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Studies
  • Earth Modeling
  • Geology/Earth Science
  • Systems Thinking

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These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards. At the top of each page, you can click on the NGSS logo to see the specific connections. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more about the process of alignment and how to use InTeGrate materials to implement the NGSS.

NGSS in this Module

This is an intermediate to advanced course that gives students the opportunity to use and develop computational models using the software program STELLA. The models become more complex and interdisciplinary throughout the course.

The course may be taught in its entirety, or individual modules may be extracted for use within other courses. This course works well as a "blended" course, with the modules being completed at home and the activities being completed or presented in a weekly in-person class meeting. It could also be taught entirely online, or the activities could be used in conjunction with lectures developed by the instructor to introduce the relevant concepts in a traditional lecture-based course.

Supported NSF Earth Science Literacy Principles:

  • Big Idea 1: Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
  • Big Idea 3: Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life.
  • Big Idea 6: Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.
  • Big Idea 7: Humans depend on Earth for resources.
  • Earth Science Literacy 1.1: Earth scientists find solutions to society's needs.
  • Earth Science Literacy 1.2: Earth scientists use a large variety of scientific principles to understand how our planet works.
  • Earth Science Literacy 1.5: Earth scientists use their understanding of the past to forecast Earth's future.
  • Earth Science Literacy 8.1: Natural hazards result from natural Earth processes.
  • Earth Science Literacy 8.7: Humans cannot eliminate natural hazards, but can engage in activities that reduce their impacts.
  • Earth Science Literacy 8.8: An Earth-science-literate public is essential for reducing risks from natural hazards.

Supported NOAA Essential Principles of Climate Science:

7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

Addressed grand challenges in earth and environmental science:

  • Identifying feedback between natural and perturbed systems
  • Quantifying consequences, impacts, and effects

Addressed grand challenges in earth system science for global sustainability:

  • Develop, enhance, and integrate observation systems to manage global and regional environmental change.
  • Determine how to anticipate, avoid, and manage disruptive global environmental change.
  • Determine institutional, economic, and behavioral changes to enable effective steps toward global sustainability.
  • Encourage innovation (and mechanisms for evaluation) in technological, policy, and social responses to achieve global sustainability.

Addressed community developed, nationally-recognized Atmospheric Science Literacy Principles:

  • Atmospheric Science Literacy Principle 7.4: Weather forecasts and predictions of future climate assist us in implementing mitigation strategies and adaptation to new climatic conditions.
  • Atmospheric Science Literacy Principle 7.5: Citizens need to become educated about Earth's atmosphere to make informed decisions on issues at local, regional, and global scales.


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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »