By Mary Jane Bell
9TH Science (Suitable for Middle School-Secondary)
"Global Environmental Change” from more than one perspective. Sharing of information by more than one section of science.
Student and Teacher Background Information:
The students had completed the study of climate in a weather textbook. This exercise could also be used in a social studies classroom. The lesson could be used as an introduction to the study of weather and climate. The research on the lesson was outlined in class and students were in the library as a group while I attended a school conference. The substitute teacher monitored the group and the library staff knew the expectations. The greatest difficulty seemed to be to get students to correctly document their sources.
- Notebook or unlined paper.
- Large sheet of paper to post results after reports are written.
- Access to media materials.
- Internet optional, but students used publications and World Wide Web sites.
To survey information available so the students would become more informed about an issue that is often presented as fact, that global warming is occurring. Hopefully students will come to understand that there are several points of view, with evidence to support those points.
Activity and Preparation:
Introduction to what the instructor expects from a research paper. Paper to post the information in the classroom. Access to the Internet permission forms on file in the school offices.
This activity could be done as a part of weather and climate studies, environmental science, social studies, global studies or biological sciences.
Possible Extensions of the Activity:
I have 42 students in three sections, so this was a way to share information gathered by more than one class period. The classroom is shared with seniors and seventh grade students, so other students were given exposure to a topic that has not presented in their science class. News articles will continue to be posted with a brief summary of each point. Some students seem to think that a topic or unit that has been discussed and evaluated means the end of their responsibility on the topic. Global environmental changes will be an ongoing topic for discussion throughout the year. The topic will be broadened to include how will measurements be done world wide, is there a possibility this is a natural phenomenon, who is responsible, what is their individual responsibility if any, and who pays environmentally and financially if indeed global environmental changes are happening and humans are responsible. Students might just document the position without writing a formal report, post their findings and then write a position paper after seeing more than one point of view. This might be used for studies on the climate changes that have occurred historically, both short and long term, such as glaciation, the great depression and solar activity.
I was surprised that only one student mentioned the Kyoto, Japan World Conference on Climate Change in their report and that was not a topic that was posted. A future topic might be, “What is the responsibility of the United States in regard to the Kyoto Conference?
The science class studied a weather unit for part of one quarter in which daily weather conditions and world climate data were graphed and compared. At the completion of the unit each person was assigned to research the topic “Global Environmental Change”. The student could choose to do the research with a partner or as an individual. They were to survey information and document sources they located about climate changes. Their completed reports could include more than one point of view.
The written reports were to be typed in 12 point and double-spaced. The reports were to be at least two pages for one person and 4 pages if presented by two people. Sources were to be documented.
After the reports were graded and returned to the students, a large piece of paper approximately 6 meters by 1 meter was placed on the classroom wall. The letters for the title “Global Environmental Change” were created by one section of the science classes. Each person was given a piece of paper on which they were to print only one piece of evidence for global warming, global cooling, or other information about their research that would affect their classmates’ opinion on environmental change. If they had done the report with a partner they were to choose two different items to post.
Printing was to be at least 1 inch tall, in black or a bright color so that it could be read from across the room. When the students posted the information, it was noted that most had found information on global warming, but the number of neutral or natural causes posted outnumbered the global cooling responses. Global warming outnumbered cooling by two to one. It will be interesting to compare the responses done by future classes.
Additional benefits of this project were the number of students that reported and posted volcanic effects on global climate, which was a good lead-in to our next study unit on volcanoes. It was not unusual to find the seniors in first hour class reading the posted information before physics class began.
- Choose selected Internet sources or handouts for students to survey before starting their research paper, good introduction for technical reading.
- Require note cards while doing research with documentation of the source cited. Collect and evaluate note cards before students start on writing assignment.
- Students would be assigned to do each topic as an individual, you might consider letting them do their note card documentation together, and then have them decide who gets the note cards for their research topic.
- Hand out detailed typed instructions on the requirements and how the research will be graded.
- Note that plagiarism will not be allowed, so stress citing sources and correctly footnote. Check with the language teachers for suggestions on what they require. Take the time to randomly check sources, type in key phases from a research paper and search the Internet to find out if students have honored copyrighted information and cited sources. Library aides or paraprofessionals might be able to assist in your efforts to check documented sources.
- After the reports are graded, each student would type his/her position on one sheet of paper in all capital letters, 48 point, and Times New Roman script. Then a class discussion would be held about Global Environmental Change.