Using Scientific Data For Multi-Disciplinary Science Instruction (PD for K-12 Teachers)

Amy Ellwein, Geology Program, Western State College of Colorado and Matt Nyman, Natural Sciences Program, University of New Mexico
Offered by the Science Education Institute of the Southwest (SEIS), credits granted through the University of New Mexico, course funded by NM-EPSCoR.


Using Scientific Data is a professional development course for in-service K-12 teachers focused on climate change and Earth system science that also explores how climate concepts can be incorporated into courses other than earth science. The course provides the opportunity to explore multi-disciplinary resources for data-rich classroom instruction. Teachers review and critique online curricula and datasets, experiment with data visualizations and share how they use scientific data in their classrooms. This course was supported by NM EPSCoR.

Course Type: Upper Level
Course Size:
less than 15

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Amy teaches at a public, four-year, primarily undergraduate institution and Matt teaches at a doctoral degree granting university.

Course Context:

Using Scientific Data is professional development course for in-service K-12 teachers with no prerequisites. Approximately 50% of the teachers take the course for a stipend and 50% take the course for graduate-level credit.

Course Content:

This course focuses on the climate system, climate change, and accessing, interpreting, and communicating climate data. Teachers work on activities that range from guided to fairly open inquiry, communicate their findings through oral presentations and blog entries, and end by reflecting on the course and its influence on their teaching.

Course Goals:

  1. research, evaluate, and communicate the evidence for anthropogenic climate change
  2. explore, analyze, and interpret patterns in a spatial and temporal display of remotely sensed environmental data
  3. investigate, review, and critique certain online environmental databases and data-rich curricula while exploring the concept of data literacy
  4. increase use of data (especially climate data) in K-12 classroom instruction

Course Features:

Course Philosophy:

Through this course we hoped to address two major, pressing concerns for teachers:
  1. increasing opportunities for K-12 students to conduct true scientific inquiry and build data literacy skills, which requires that teachers have competence and confidence in their abilities to conduct scientific inquiry and evaluate data; and
  2. the politicization of anthropogenic climate change, making it the "new evolution" (e.g.


In this highly interactive 3-day course, teachers complete several activities that are designed to help them achieve the course goals (the following is a partial list). The following activities allow the instructors to evaluate progress towards the goals and degree of success of the course.
  • Evaluating Goal #1 - Teachers read The Physical Science Behind Climate Change (2007 Scientific American article) and use the Guiding Questions for Physical Science Behind Climate Change (Acrobat (PDF) 71kB Jun14 12) to answer questions and report findings as groups.
  • Evaluating Goal #2 - Exploring Earth Systems Science: The Interactive GLOBE Earth System Poster
  • Evaluating Goal #3 - Teachers explore selected Data-Rich Online Modules (Acrobat (PDF) 59kB Jun14 12), then evaluate in terms of promotion of inquiry and data literacy, data accessibility, and whether the curricula could be modified for use with their students.
  • Evaluating Goal #4 - Teachers reflect on the course through a Portfolio Asssignment (Acrobat (PDF) 79kB Jun14 12) and consider how to alter their current practices to incorporate new content, skills, and attitudes towards scientific inquiry.


Teaching Materials:

References and Notes: