Bringing Climate Studies to Community College of Denver

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Monday, 3 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Dawn R. Cummings, Community College, Denver, CO; and S. Peterson

The Community College of Denver (CCD) is an urban-minority serving institution, with a student population 50% minority, of which 25% are Hispanic. CCD is part of the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), comprised of 13 colleges across the state of Colorado. The Center for Math and Science, where my department is located, is a transfer center within CCD. Our college shares the Auraria Campus with Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU) and the University of Colorado Denver (UCD). A large number of students at CCD plan on transferring to a 4-year institution; because of the proximity to MSU and UCD, many of our students complete their bachelor's degrees at those institutions.

A goal of the Science department at CCD is to provide more environmental science based courses. Fulfillment of that goal was a primary reason for my interest in the AMS faculty development opportunity. CCD has added an Environmental Science course for non-majors to the curriculum, and it has been well received, demonstrated by increasing enrollment and strong course evaluations. Furthermore, MSU offers a B.S. in Environmental Science and CCD has formed an agreement of transfer with MSU to accept CCD's new A.S. in Environmental Science. Another CCD goal is to offer a greater variety in science courses for both majors and non-majors. Currently most major and non-major science classes offered at CCD are General Biology, Human Biology, General Chemistry, Physics, and Astronomy. A Climate Studies course would add great educational diversity to the CCD Science curriculum, and an attractive option for non-science majors.

A workshop in climate studies designed for non-Meteorology faculty, plus free access to a developed course seemed like an ideal opportunity to begin offering Climate Science concepts in the CCD curriculum. I am a Biology instructor and attended the American Meteorological Society Climate Studies workshop in May 2013. My background is not in Meteorology or Climate Studies, so I found the workshop very helpful and informative, in particular as I work through the effects of climate change on the biological concepts I teach in my courses. I learned a great deal about Climate Science in general, as well as specifically current details about climate change. Hearing about climate change from today's experts was inspiring and will help me build a better course. It was also helpful to meet other faculty and hear about their experiences offering this course at their institutions. I feel much more prepared to implement the Introduction to Climate Studies course after attending this workshop.

A requirement of the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) for Guaranteed Transfer (GT) is that the course must have fifteen weeks of hands-on laboratories. Thus, I must develop a lab schedule to accompany the Introduction to Climate Studies course. A large number of the CCD Science students plan to enter the medical field. A challenge will be designing a course that appeals to both Environmental Science and health career focused students. I intend to add many case studies involving climate and health issues.

Finally, CCD is instituting a set of institutional outcomes that every course must meet. One of those institutional outcomes is global awareness. Thus, the course I develop will also incorporate a strong emphasis on global issues (political, social, environmental) relating to climate. The Introduction to Climate Studies course that we offer at CCD will be a hybrid or flipped course. This teaching format expands flexibility both for the college and for students; approximately 74% of the students at CCD are part-time, they appreciate the option of taking a course that only requires they come to campus once per week.

It takes several months to get approval for new course offering through CCCS, so my department plans to offer the course in Spring 2014 using a “Special Topics” listing. My poster at the AMS meeting will highlight the challenges and procedures I have met at CCD to offer the climate studies course.