AMS Climate Studies: Utility and Implementation at Kauai Community College

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Monday, 5 January 2015
Stephen V. Taylor, Kauai Community College, Lihue, HI

The Climate Studies Diversity Project workshop May 2014 in Washington DC provided an overview of AMS Climate Studies textbook including its development history and philosophy, activities, resources, pedagogy, and logistical functionality. The main benefit of the AMS Climate Studies workshop was helping faculty discover this course package could adequately fill a void that existed. Because, climate change is a significant and relatively recent problem, there is a natural, compelling interest among students, faculty, and institutions in increasing availability of climate science courses and improving climate science curriculum. But, textbook options are limited and they need to be constantly updated. For example, a two-year old textbook would lack at least three years of global average temperatures, CO2 consistently above 400pm, this year's likely strong ENSO event, the latest IPCC report, and important new data and findings on ice-sheet dynamics. Frequent textbook updates and broad suites of course materials with interactive animations and maintained links might be offered in the future by the very largest textbook companies, but this is an increasingly expensive option such that it is becoming a barrier to participation, especially for economically disadvantaged students.

AMS climate studies has a wonderful solution: The Climate Studies course package consists of a textbook, eInvestigations Manual, course website, and course management system-compatible files. The comprehensive resources, hands-on activities, and maintained links are especially useful. Because the team of scientists and educators upload materials in real-time through the semester, information is always up-to-date and relevant. In fact, a nice feature is the current studies section where students can explore the science of meteorological or climate events as they happen (e.g. a major hurricane during fall 2014 semester). Preset animations are created or gathered from original sources such as NWS, NASA, National Snow and Ice Data Center, etc with lessons and activities built around real data and images.

At the very least, AMS Climate Studies can save one a lot of time. Contributions of experts in many fields create, assemble, and vet the resources and activities. Even if an individual instructor had broad and extensive expertise, it would take years of independent work to assemble the comprehensive work, let alone the dogged determination to maintain every link, update every data set, and adapt activities to recent events on the fly.

Aside from learning about the textbook and resources, the workshop also featured a series of guest speakers who reviewed latest scientific findings and offered diverse expert perspectives in science but also economics, community engagement, and national security aspects of climate change. Participants were left with numerous inspiring ideas, data sources, figures, and activities. Participants visited NASA, National Centers of Environmental Prediction, and the Beltsville Center for Climate System Observation. During breakout groups where participants could share ideas and get feedback from faculty who have used AMS Climate Studies package. Various officials described student funding and career opportunities in climate and related sciences.

For me, the AMS Climate Studies will bolster the curriculum of an existing course I teach at University of Hawaii, Kauai Community College (Kauai CC). The course examines climate change and impacts of potential solutions from a physical science perspective. The course serves as a physical science elective primarily for non-science majors. Kauai CC is a two-year public community college within the University of Hawaii system. It is the only institution of higher education on the island of Kauai. Kauai CC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Native Hawaiian-Serving Institution. Kauai CC was ranked the 16th best community college in the nation by Washington Monthly in fall 2013. Enrollment is about 1000 students with roughly half enrolled in degree programs intended to transfer to 4-yr universities.