Facilitating a Deeper Understanding of Change in the Earth System on Multiple Time Scales

This project is developing a week-long unit of activities focused on the cryosphere, implementing the activities with students, and studying the activities’ effectiveness. The overarching goals of this project are to build a sequence of scaffolded investigations that will help students more fully understand the cryosphere; and investigate the effectiveness of the sequence of and investigations at helping students understand how and why a component of the Earth system varies over time.

Project Email: 
Project Evaluator: 
Karen McNeal
Full Description: 

The Facilitating Student Understanding of Change in the Earth System on Multiple Time Scales proposal is being submitted to the NSF-GeoEd solicitation Track 1 Pilot Projects.

 

There is an increasing need for today’s students to sufficiently understand how the Earth system changes and the processes that cause those changes so they can address the environmental challenges of the future as scientists, decisions makers, and citizens. However, grasping change over time, especially on multiple time scales ranging from daily to ice age variations, is a challenge. The project is pilot project in which we will develop a week-long unit of activities focused on the cryosphere, implement the activities with students, and study their effectiveness.  The results of the study will be used to refine the activities developed in this project and to serve as a foundation for the development of a larger scale high-school Earth science course for which we will seek additional funding.  In addition, we will develop a teacher professional development program to provide training to high-school teachers on the use of these materials.  The overarching goals of this project are:

  • To build, mainly with existing resources, a sequence of scaffolded activities and investigations that will help students more fully understand how the cryosphere changes on multiple time scales and how it impacts and is impacted by the other components of the Earth system.
  • To investigate the effectiveness of the developed sequence of activities and investigations at helping students understand how and why a component of the Earth system varies over time, to apply that knowledge to improve the unit of activities used in this study, and to make that knowledge and materials available to the broader educational community.

 

Intellectual Merit: The Facilitating Student Understanding of Change in the Earth System on Multiple Time Scales project will help us to understand more clearly the difficulties high-school students have in comprehending how the Earth system changes on multiple time scales, and to design activities and materials that can help them and their teachers overcome these challenges. There is currently little work of direct relevance to pre-college age students’ models of Earth change. Therefore, we believe that the proposed effort will add significantly to the research base. In addition, the curriculum materials we create will have clear benefit and application for high-school Earth science classes.

 

Broader Impacts: In this pilot project we will focus on an interesting component of the Earth system—the cryosphere (sea ice, glaciers, and continental ice)—to develop a week-long unit of activities that will help students understand change in the cryosphere on a range of time scales and the causes of those changes. The results of this work will 1) provide a firm foundation on which to develop a full high-school capstone Earth system science course that will include the broader range of complexity and time scales present in the Earth system – a course which is now on the books in Texas; 2) make these materials available to high-school teachers and students across the country through the EarthLabs web site, and 3) move the efforts of the Revolution in Earth and Space Science Education forward by establishing reviewed and tested components of this course in Texas and make it possible to promote the establishment of this course in other states.

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