Using Real-Life Events to Increase Scientific Literacy: How Broadcasters Can Help

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Friday, 28 June 2013: 4:15 PM
Using Real-Life Events to Increase Scientific Literacy: How Broadcasters Can Help
Tulip Grove BR (Sheraton Music City Hotel)
James A. Brey, American Meteorological Society, Washington, DC; and I. W. Geer, R. S. Weinbeck, E. W. Mills, and K. A. Nugnes

Broadcasters play a unique role in educating their viewing audience. But opportunities to further educate and impact the community in which they live exist outside of their stations; these opportunities exist with the Education Program of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The AMS strives to raise the scientific literacy of tomorrow's leaders. This is accomplished by providing professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers nationwide and by creating undergraduate-level course packages. In both, broadcasters can assist.

During the fall and spring semesters, AMS, in partnership with NOAA, NASA, and SUNY Brockport, offers DataStreme Atmosphere, Ocean, and Earth's Climate System. These courses are delivered to small groups of K-12 teachers through Local Implementation Teams (LITs) in nearly all 50 states. The three-member LITs, typically composed of an AMS-trained teacher leader, college faculty member, and AMS certified broadcaster or NOAA or other federal operational scientist. Each team recruits about eight teachers per semester and then mentors participants through the course. Emphasis is given to recruiting pre-college teachers who are members of minority groups and/or teach at schools with a 25% or greater minority student population.

The courses consist of weekly online study materials (twice-weekly for DataStreme Atmosphere), weekly mentoring, and several face-to-face meetings, all supplemented by a provided textbook and investigations manual. Upon completion of each course, teachers receive three free graduate credits from SUNY Brockport. These programs have directly trained well over 18,000 teachers, increasing their knowledge of online geoscience resources and their confidence in understanding dynamic Earth systems. Through courses modeled on scientific inquiry and fashioned to develop critical thinking skills, these teachers become a resource for their classrooms and colleagues. These teachers have impacted over one million students.

In the undergraduate realm, AMS offers AMS Weather Studies, AMS Ocean Studies, and AMS Climate Studies, innovative undergraduate course packages for institutions to locally implement. Designed to be adaptable to traditional, hybrid, or online instructional settings, these courses have already been adopted by more than 730 institutions nationwide.

The courses consist of a fully-integrated set of printed and online learning materials including a comprehensive textbook, investigations manual, course website, faculty website, and a faculty resource CD. Instructors can use these materials in any combination that best suits their needs. These courses can be taught by experienced science faculty or those new to teaching the subject matter. Mentoring by AMS-trained course instructors is available to all new instructors.

In both DataStreme and AMS undergraduate courses, emphasis is placed on using current, real-world environmental data to investigate the Earth system. One such activity investigated the vertical atmospheric structure of Superstorm Sandy, as it was coming ashore. Activities from other notable events include the 2011 record-breaking tornado season, the Great Tohoku earthquake/tsunami event, methane hydrates and the Gulf oil spill, and the record-low Arctic sea ice. These investigations give participants the ability to learn about the science behind these events as they occur.

AMS is dedicated to increasing the scientific literacy of both teachers and students. AMS precollege programs have impacted more than one million students. AMS Weather, Ocean, and Climate Studies have already been adopted by more than 730 colleges and universities across the United States. AMS strongly encourages broadcast meteorologists to participate in AMS Education Program initiatives by becoming members of DataStreme Local Implementation Teams and promoting the local offering of AMS Weather, Ocean, and Climate Studies.