Deborah Gross: Using Systems Thinking in Climate Science at Carleton College
About this CourseAn introductory course for students who have had one introductory science or math course previously. This course counts as an elective for the environmental studies major.
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
My Climate Science course is an introductory-level course, although it requires students to have one college-level math or science course as a pre-requisite. It is typically taught with a mix of lecture, discussion, and student-directed projects, so the activities in this module fit right in!When I taught this course previously, my students and I had discussed the complexity of Earth's climate system throughout the course, but we had not taken the time to specifically develop the tools for describing complex systems through diagrams, as this module helped us do. The students were able to transfer these skills to all aspects of their course, and hopefully into other areas, as well.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterialsI used the module essentially as-is. The only way I changed things for my course was that I did not use the PowerPoint presentations in Units 1 and 2, but instead led discussions with the students, where I (or they) drew on the board to illustrate points.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
My course is 9.5 weeks long (28 class meetings), and I started the module right at the beginning. I did Units 1 and 2 on the second and third days of class. Units 3 and 4 were done about 1 month later, one week apart. Units 3 and 4 were done around the same time that we were learning to use EdGCM, a climate model, and working with simulation results from it. I introduced the bathtub models as a way to actually work with the individual calculations that are within a climate model, one at a time. Unit 5 was done just after Unit 4, right after we had a deep foray into the Carbon Cycle, because of an article that we had read and discussed in class. We developed our own (partial) model of the Carbon Cycle in that conversation. Thus, I chose to use the Carbon Cycle example for this unit, so that we looked at a complete version. Unit 6 was done on the second-to-last day of class.