Alycia Lackey: Using Climate of Change in Bio 103: Saving Planet Earth at Murray State University
About this Course
Two 75-minute lecture sessions
Bio 103 Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 223kB May18 18)
Bio 103 Saving Planet Earth (3 credits). A study of the problems faced by humans on Earth, including human population growth, over-exploitation of natural resources, habitat destruction and extinction. The philosophical, ethical, and scientific basis of these problems and their solution will be discussed. The course will also explore the potential for humans to live in a sustainable fashion on the planet, and emphasize the social responsibility and civic engagement required to do so.
Through this course, students will understand the fundamental problems of human existence on Earth,the ways in which such problems can be solved, and how this understanding can lead to ways in which you can assist in the preservation and restoration of the planet. Some of the problems we will discuss include human population growth, over-exploitation of natural resources, habitat destruction, climate change, and extinction. We will discuss the scientific, philosophical, and ethical basis of these problems and their solutions. The course will also explore the potential for humans to live in a sustainable fashion on the planet and emphasize the social responsibility and civic engagement required to do so. Through this course, students will develop a new world view, allowing you to make better decisions in your daily lives about your own personal influence on the Earth's future, and to potentially lead and influence others in this regard.
To understand these problems, students will also develop scientific literacy -- understanding scientific concepts and processes needed to make decisions personally and as a member of society. You will strengthen your abilities to read and understand popular press science articles; identify scientific issues that underlie local, national, and global decisions; evaluate the quality of scientific evidence based on the source of methods used to generate it; and develop and critically evaluate arguments based on scientific evidence.
In a two-week module on climate change, I used Unit 6 Adapting to a Changing World to encourage students to think about responding to current and future consequences of climate change. The content in this unit strengthened students' understanding of public opinion, including their own opinion, on climate change as well as mitigation and adaptation response strategies.
The component of this unit that had the greatest impact was having students identify their climate change personality and their community's vulnerability. This connected students personally to the material and strengthened their motivation to participate in discussion.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterials
The preparation exercise students completed before class primed them to discuss their "climate change personality" and the vulnerability of their community to climate change. I built upon this background to motivate a class discussion on public perception and decision making about climate change. In previous semesters, I had covered public perception generally, but having students identify their own perceptions about climate change as well as their likelihood to experience consequences of climate change made them much more personally invested and engaged in class discussion and problem-solving.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
Unit 6 made up approximately 50 minutes of a 75-min lecture session in a two-week module on climate change. I implemented this unit two-thirds into the course. Before this class, we had covered how carbon dioxide contributes to climate change, the greenhouse gas effect, and the consequences of climate change that have already occurred for weather patterns, ocean temperatures and acidity, and melting sea and land ice. Additionally, we had watched the 2012 Frontline documentary "Climate of Doubt" that examines public perception and political response to climate change. Classes were usually 50% lecture and 50% in-class group work. Thus, students were used to interactive, small-group activities and whole-class discussion.
Climate of Change Module
I only used Unit 6 Adapting to a Changing World.
- Before class, students completed the survey to assess their climate change personality that categorized them from "alarmed" to "dismissive". Students reported their answers in our Canvas LMS, so I shared the distribution of the students' responses among the six personality categories. We then compared that to the 2016 national survey data
(http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/global-warmings-six-americas-november-2016). We briefly discussed differences between our class' and the national data.
- Next, I showed some additional survey data figures to illustrate how these different climate personalities associate with stances on whether someone thinks climate change is occurring and what should be done about it. I provide the slides here Climate Change slides (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 5.2MB May18 18).
- Additionally, I showed, and we discussed, U.S. national average as well as county-by-county data on responses to a series of statements about climate change.
- Then we discussed community vulnerability to climate change. In their assignment due before class, students read about different characteristics that make populations more susceptible to climate change and they rated their own community's vulnerability.
- In class, I had students discuss in small groups and then report out to the class areas of the U.S. that would be most vulnerable to climate change based on these characteristics.
- I then presented my own lecture material on projected effects of climate change from model predictions. I also used my own material to define and provide examples of mitigation and adaptation.
- I had planned to use a revised and shortened version of the adaptations gallery walk activity as the assessment, but we ran out of time. I converted the gallery walk activity to a small-group worksheet activity. I had planned to use a jigsaw approach, splitting up parts 1, 2, and 3 among different groups and then creating larger groups that shared their answers to each section with each other. I have provided this revised worksheet here Adaptations worksheet (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.2MB May18 18), which I hope will be useful for anyone else who wants to use this activity but has limited time or would prefer a jigsaw approach.
I used our third course exam to assess students' understanding of climate change, public perception, vulnerability, and responses through adaptation and mitigation. Exam grades show that most students could (a) correctly distinguish between climate change responses that would be categorized as mitigation or adaptations and (b) interpret a graph of predicted outcomes given the extent to which we mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
My goals for incorporating this unit were to give students a stronger understanding of the following: how the public perceives climate change and its consequences, variation in the vulnerability of different regions of the world and groups of people, and the differences between mitigation and adaptation strategies. This unit helped me achieve all of these goals and got students more engaged in the material because they personally assessed their own perceptions of climate change and their community's vulnerability. This greatly enriched our class discussions and motivated students to talk about what they could do to mitigate the consequences of climate change.