At the 2012 SENCER Summer Institute, I attended two sessions led by Barbara Tewksbury so I could work on our Chemistry and Climate Course.  Below are the notes and feedback from these sessions.

Title: Critical Thinking – Chemistry & Climate

Description:  This course will be a thematic exploration of the role of chemistry in understanding climate change.  Through this exploration, students will learn the basic principles of chemistry as applied to ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect, smog, acid rain and other important climate concerns.  The course content will be learned through problem-based learning activities in class that culminate with a major case-study analysis at the end of each unit.   These hands-on activities will be supplemented with mini-lectures delivered in a “just-in-time” fashion to support learning as the students are actively engaged in problem-solving activities.

Student Population:  This course has two distinct student populations, 1st Semester (freshman) chemistry majors and an assortment of other majors.  The chemistry majors use the course to fulfill their general chemistry requirement (1st semester of a 2-semester sequence).  The other majors in the course are taking it to fulfill their liberal arts requirement and NOT a science requirement.  This presents both challenges and opportunities.  The challenge is to ensure that the chemistry majors come out of the course with the content-knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the 2nd semester general chemistry course.  A second challenge is to ensure that the course is interesting to the non-chemistry majors and that they are able to “keep-up”.  The opportunities are really just another side of that same coin; (1) a chance for a chemistry major to take an “interesting” course  and (2) to engage non-majors in the practice of chemistry as applied to important relevant issues.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to …

  1. assess the validity of scientific and popular information relevant to climate issues.*
  2. describe the scientific evidence and principles at play in tropospheric pollution, stratospheric ozone depletion and global climate change.*
  3. use evidence to make analytical arguments.*
  4. use chemical knowledge and principles to solve problems with integrated concepts and evaluate the “reasonableness” of solutions.*
  5. independently direct their own learning.**
*modifications of existing course goals, which were drafted and approved by the faculty in the department.
**a new goal that addresses meta-learning.

Practice that leads to successful attainment of course goals:

  1. assess the validity of scientific and popular information relevant to climate issues.*
    1. work with (read) valid sources vetted by instructors
    2. Evaluating Sources Jigsaw (using 4 sources of varying scientific validity)
    3. Ozone poster session (html)
  2. describe the scientific evidence and principles at play in tropospheric pollution, stratospheric ozone depletion and global climate change.*
    1. low stakes “reporting out” during course activities
    2. concept mapping activities
    3. essay exam – unit 1
  3. use evidence to make analytical arguments.*
    1. data jigsaws
    2. essay exams
    3. poster sessions
  4. use chemical knowledge and principles to solve problems with integrated concepts and evaluate the “reasonableness” of solutions.*
    1. Weekly online chemistry quizzes
    2. poster presentation describing real-life consequences of acid-rain and proposing plausible solutions.  e.g. a lake acidified by acid-rain.
  5. independently direct their own learning.**
    1. ??

Reflection

 

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