190 Implementing AMS Climate Studies at Monroe Community College, Rochester, NY

Tuesday, 8 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Jason S. Szymanski, Monroe Community College, Rochester, NY

The effects of global climate change are projected to catch up to countries in the lower-latitudes by the end of the 21st century and future college graduates will be faced with unprecedented challenges. Environmental changes are already underway, which are dramatically changing sea level and polar ice distributions. Having a broad understanding of how the Earth's climate functions will empower students to make informed decisions and help mitigate the impact of future warming. To create access to this subject and to provide a gateway to the geosciences for traditional and underrepresented student populations, The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has developed an introductory climate science course package, AMS Climate Studies. In May of 2012, I participated in the AMS Climate Studies Implementation Workshop as part of the AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project. This workshop was composed of a series of lectures on the state of the earth's climate system and field trips aimed at providing participants with experiences and materials to be used in the classroom. The first set of lectures were held at the AMS Education Program Office in Washington, D.C., which included speakers from the NSF Office of Polar/Antarctic Glaciology Programs, Corporate Partnerships for the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, U.S. Naval Task force on Climate Change, and the AMS Education Program. The lecture series also addressed the topics of climate variability, paleoceanography research, methods of teaching climate change, as well as how to communicate the science to the general public. The field trip portion of the AMS Climate Studies Implementation Workshop included destinations to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction, and the Center for Climate System Observation. Other benefits of attending this workshop included opportunities to network with colleagues as well as making connections with professional scientists actively doing research in the field of climate change.

The two-year, post-secondary institution where I teach, Monroe Community College (MCC) in upstate New York, is well suited to meeting the goals of the AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project. MCC is a Middle-States-accredited college dedicated to providing access to higher education and training to a diverse community. Of a population of about 18,000 students, 34% are minority students; most of whom are enrolled in career and transfer programs. In addition, MCC currently has a total of 413 underrepresented and/or at-risk middle and high school students enrolled in youth academic enrichment programs. The Department of Chemistry and Geosciences at MCC currently has degree programs in both geology and geography that would support a climate studies course. The department is also home to the New York State Geographic Alliance, an organization dedicated to revitalize geographic education in our nation's classrooms. A Sustainability Certificate Program was recently designed to educate students on the social, economic, institutional and environmental aspects of sustainable development as they relate to both human society and the physical environment. To meet the needs of these programs, and to educate diverse student populations on subject of climate change, a course proposal was written for development of a new, introductory-level climate studies course to be offered in the 2012-2013 academic year. The course is titled GEG 253/252 Climate Change: Past, Present, and Future, which will be the platform to apply the AMS Climate Studies course package. The Climate Studies textbook will serve as the primary resource for the lecture potion of the course in addition to lecture notes. The Investigations Manual will be used to supplement both lecture and laboratory activities. The structure of GEG253/252 is a three-credit hour lecture with a one-credit hour laboratory and has been approved by the State University of New York as a natural science general elective. This course will approach the topic of climate change through a geographical perspective to promote critical and analytical thinking skills while building a strong background in the science of climate change. Students will learn the mechanics of the climate system and contextualize policy-related issues with regards to sustainability. The laboratory component of the course will build spatial skills by having students analyze and create maps, organize spatial data, and evaluate trends. I plan to offer the course in the 2013 spring semester in a fully online format. The course will be delivered using an online course management system (SLN Angel) where students will have access to course materials, pre-recorded lectures, discussion forums, and interactive laboratory activities.

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