Monday, 11 January 2016
A number of students in the university environment arrive at the first day of a meteorology, climatology or climate change class with strongly held opinions on the reality of climate change and its causes. These opinions range from a disbelief that the climate changes, to strong convictions of the cause of climate change. Their opinions are based on a poor understanding of scientific research, misunderstood scientific statements, internet blogs, partially accurate statements, and misleading internet postings, all of which that were developed over a number of years. Such opinions make it difficult for students to objectively view the scientifically valid evidence of climate trends and causes. Repeating statements from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports, or displaying climatologically sensitive parameter trends are generally not sufficiently motivating to engage the developing critical thinking skills of the student. A series of three workshops sponsored by the American Meteorological Society/National Science Foundation titled MSI Reconstruction Earth's Climate History (REaCH) provide university instructors with the data, tools, techniques, and resources to engage students in the discussion over climate change and thus attract students to consider science careers. The approach presented in the workshops allows the student to synthesize data and use techniques from a wide variety of disciplines to discover for themselves the facts and challenges of climate change study. The disciplines include Meteorology, Biology, Geology, Chemistry, Oceanography and Paleontology. The use of statistical and physical data to draw conclusions about the climate within the structure of the scientific method and in comparison to the conclusions of scientists, allows the students to “self-discover” the climate story. At the same time, it builds their understanding of how scientific knowledge is construction and sharpens their critical thinking skills. This paper will present how the approach used in the REaCH workshops can be implemented in the freshman level classroom to encourage interest in science as a lifelong career.
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