We have entered the Anthropocene, an age when the actions of seven billion humans have increasing influence on the Earth. The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project is developing modules for middle school and high school students in Earth and Space Science classes, testing the hypothesis that students who use computational models, analyze real-world data, and engage in building scientific reasoning and argumentation skills are better able to understand Earth science core ideas and how humans impact Earth's systems. The Concord Consortium in partnership with the University of California Santa Cruz and the National Geographic Society are co-developing these modules, conducting targeted research on how the modules enhance students' higher order thinking skills and understanding of human-Earth interactions, and broadly disseminating these materials via far-reaching education networks.
The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project is creating online, middle and high school curriculum modules that feature computational models and cover five topics: climate change, fresh water availability, fossil fuel utilization, resource sustainability, and land use management. At the same time, the project team is conducting design studies to look at how specific features, prompts, argumentation and evaluation tools built into the modules affect student understanding of core Earth science concepts. The design studies promote rapid, iterative module development and help to identify features that support student learning, as well as scientific reasoning, scientific argumentation with uncertainty, systems thinking, and model-based experimentation skills. For each module, pre- and posttest data, embedded assessments, student surveys, classroom observations, teacher interviews and surveys, provide important information to rapidly improve module features, content, and usability. The final, high-quality, project materials are being made available to a national audience through the National Geographic Society as well as through the High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability website hosted at the Concord Consortium.
It is essential that students graduate from high school with a solid understanding of the scientific concepts that help explain how humans impact Earth systems, and conversely, how Earth processes impact humans. The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project provides a unique, research-based approach to conveying to students core Earth science content, crosscutting concepts, and fundamental practices of science. The resulting online curriculum modules and teacher guides provide exciting examples of next generation Earth science teaching and learning materials, and the research findings provide new insights on how students learn core science concepts and gain critical scientific skills.