Monday, 11 January 2016
“Weather and Climate” are key themes with the Earth and Space Science components of the Next Generation Science Standards. Designing NGSS-based curricular activities for pre-college classes will involve integrating more about crosscutting patterns, science and engineering practices, and the nature of science with disciplinary core ideas than has been commonly done. The emphasis on incorporating mathematics and language arts into all subjects to address State curriculum and standardized testing mandates will also influence instructional decisions. We will present examples of first-generation professional development programs addressing these concerns. NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas pertinent to Weather and Climate themes include: ESS1.B Cyclical changes in the shape of Earth's orbit; ESS2.A Earth's systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedbacks that increase or decrease changes; ESS2.C Liquid water on earth's surface and its unique physical and chemical properties are central to the planet's dynamics; ESS2.D Solar radiation and interactions with the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere are the foundation for climate changes; and ESS2.E Dynamic interactions between the biosphere and other Earth systems cause continual co-evolution of Earth's surface and the Life on it. Significant crosscutting patterns that students should comprehend include cause and effect, energy and motion, structure and function, and stability and change. They should be assisted in mastering such science and engineering practices as developing and using models, planning and carrying out investigations, and analyzing and interpreting data, and engaging in argument from evidence. Key to their understanding the Nature of Science is recognition that scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence. NGSS Performance Expectations are designed to build student understanding and skills progressively. Beginning at the K-2 level, students use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time. They should represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions during each season in grades 3 – 5. At that level, they are also ready to obtain and combine information to describe climates in different regions of the world. During Middle School, they can develop models to describe cycling of Earth materials and the flow of energy driving these processes. In particular, they should explore models of the Water Cycle and how energy and gravity influence it. They begin to construct evidence-based explanations for how geoscience processes can change Earth on temporal and spatial scales. The motions and complex interactions of air masses, along with the unequal heating and rotation of our planet cause atmospheric and oceanic circulations that determine regional climate, can be introduced at this level. During high school studies, students should analyze geoscience data to support claims that changes in the Earth systems influence other changes; for example, increasing levels of greenhouse gases may melt ice caps that may raise sea level that will affect human activities. They can begin to comprehend how climate changes over shorter and longer time periods, from El Nino-La Nina events on the order of years to orbital changes over thousands of years to movements of plates over millions of years. This is also where students can begin investigations about the physical and chemical properties of water as influences on living organisms, streams erosion, soil moisture, frost wedging, etc. Students should now be ready to construct evidence-based arguments about the simultaneous coevolution of Earth systems and Life on Earth. We will provide examples of professional development strategies to help teachers begin to design NGSS-based curricular units.
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