Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mapping Global Climate Change Has Begun

A few weeks ago I described a project that I was co-planning with a science teacher for her grade 9 earth science students. Today we began! When they arrived in the library they were already assigned to groups of three and given a country that, in most cases, they had previously studied in their social studies class. We used their double lab period to introduce the project and get started on research. In a nutshell, here is a the project:

In small groups you will examine the climate of countries in different environments. You will then predict what might happen to the climate of a particular country as the earth continues to warm. All of your research, insight, evidence, and citations will be presented as a layer on a class Google My Map.

My colleague wisely reminded the class of their predisposition to jump to the final product without embracing the vital steps of research necessary to inform that product. So we began by giving the students a short (less than 2 page) overview reading on indicators of climate change and impact projections. We instructed them to read and annotate what they thought was important.

No one annotated.

When the chatter began, and they said they were done reading, I asked them to review the reading one section at a time. The sub-heading for the first section was: "Increasing Temperatures." I asked students to share something in that section that prompted them to ask a question about the geographical region they were about to study. First they blinked, then they stared at their computer screens hoping that avoiding eye contact would end this part of the exercise.

I kept pushing: "when you read about rising temperatures what does it make you wonder about your country or region?" Finally, a student who is studying India asked, "what happens to people already living in really cramped conditions when it gets hotter? won't they suffer?" And then, a student started to answer that question. Now, I'm not in the habit of stopping a student from contributing, but I did. I said, you are making statements but this phase of our work is about asking questions. What happens at the beginning of research when you make statements instead of asking questions? They figured this out right away: statements lead to bias confirmation; questions allow you to see and incorporate information that surprises and challenges you. Statements rehash what you already think you know; questions enable you to learn something new.

We returned to the overview reading and students began asking questions about their assigned region based on the information in the reading. They annotated the reading with their questions and shared with the class. Then I said, what's next? How will you find more information about your region? The reading is a global overview, now you need to focus geographically. They knew it was time for keywords. I suggested they work in their groups to make a list of 25 keywords, and when they had that many they had to ask me or their science teacher to review the list and give them the thumbs up to begin searching the databases and collected websites. They were aghast! TWENTY-five words?! Yes, I said. And next year I will ask you for 75!

By the time class ended, they had made their lists, gotten approval to proceed with research and were given the expectation that each member of the group will have completed reading, citing and note-taking from at least one source before we reconvene. When they have examined multiple sources each, they will share their notes and organize them in this table:

Ultimately their goal is to make predictions about their region, so we will give them these formulas to help guide that synthesis of their information:

Finally, they will display their questions, research, citations, and predictions on a layer of a Google MyMap and write or screencast a reflection on the future of global climate predictions by comparing the information in their map layer with their classmates. I will share more when we get to that stage!

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