192 The AMS Climate Studies Course with Supplemental Geographic Information Systems and Service Learning Content

Tuesday, 8 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
David A. Padgett, Tennessee State Univ., Nashville, TN

Handout (1.8 MB)

The course Weather and Climate (GEOG 3500) is taught each fall semester at Tennessee State University (TSU), an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) hosting a total enrollment of approximately 9,200 students. The course content is supplemented in part with instructional innovations discussed at the 2012 NSF-AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project Course Implementation Workshop. Among the primary objectives is to expose underrepresented students from many academic disciplines and backgrounds to climate science.

With community outreach being an HBCU tradition, official service learning course designation has been added as a strategy to recruit students. The service learning component of the course is supported with funding from the State Farm Good Neighbor Service Learning Grant Program ($15,000.00), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HBCU Grant Program ($10,000.00), and the GLOBE Teacher Workshop on Climate Grant Program ($3,380.00). Funds support students' in exposing predominantly African American and low-income high school students to climate science and geospatial technology. Funds also support GLOBE Certification for pre-service teachers enrolled in the course.

Given the demographics of TSU's student body, a significant portion of the course focuses upon inner-city populations' preparedness for, and response to, weather-related hazards. Students are exposed to geographic information systems (GIS)-based research related to hazard vulnerability assessment of low-income and people of color communities.

Specific to Nashville, Tennessee, geographic information systems software is applied in a spatial analysis of vulnerable populations' proximity to emergency shelters and various flood elevations. A modified Social Vulnerability Index (SOVI) score is calculated to determine the relative vulnerability for each census tract within the city.

The course is also supplemented with climate science teaching strategies garnered from the National Center on Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Enhancing Diversity in Climate Change Science Workshop. The NCAR workshop emphasizes a cooperative and multidisciplinary approach to teaching climate science. Specifically, students are instructed in how to use GIS to combine physical climate data with demographic, socioeconomic, and epidemiological data in order to demonstrate the disparate impact of global warming upon regional and localized populations. Data in GIS format are downloaded from various sources and used to develop GIS-based learning exercise: the Community Earth System Model (CESM), the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP), and the NCAR GIS Initiative.

The class project is service-learning based. Students work with the WeatherBug program to install and maintain a WeatherBug Weather Station at a local high school. The partner school is over 90 percent African American with the majority of the students receiving free and reduced price meals. The weather station offers the students the opportunity to college real-time local weather data. The GLOBE program includes a WeatherBug Protocol.

The AMS Climate Studies text and online content is the foundation of the course content. However, in order to attract and retain underrepresented group students, creative, multidisciplinary course design strategies are employed. Students outside of the physical science realm are recruited as climate science is now turning its focus toward the broader social impacts of global warming. Enrollment is expected to be approximately 20 students whose majors include: Health Sciences, Sociology, Agriculture, and Education.

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