Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Final Project: Snow Cover Inquiry

Visual from Unite Us illustrating snow cover beneath spruce trees and in the open.

Middle and High School Students in the Chugach Extension School Program

Many students in our program are very successful in learning science content; engaging in inquiry projects is more challenging.  Engaging in an inquiry project involves following the scientific process, learning how to ask questions, testing theories, gathering data using a consistent method, analyzing the data you've gathered, etc.  All of these steps involve much modeling and practice before students are able to engage in them successfully and independently.

Therefore, I'd like to engage in an inquiry project that is based on an idea from one of our program's middle school students about snow cover in Valdez.  This project is meant to model the inquiry process for a wide range of our local students so they can then begin inquiry projects of their own in the future.  My other goal is to help students see how this project connects with bigger ideas and concepts in science, see learning objectives below.  As I need modeling myself before designing my own lessons, this is taken largely from Unite Us with supplements from the resources gathered from our course modules.  This will be the first middle/high school lesson I've ever engaged in. 

Learning Objectives:
1. Learn CSD science process skills:
     A. Develop questions and formulate a testable hypothesis
     B. Design investigations: clarify hypothetical questions, methods, controls and variables
     C. Conduct Investigations
     D. Communicate Results
2.  CSD Culture and Communication standards that involve interviewing community members
2.  Observe and record temperature measurements and make observations about snow cover
3.  Learn GLOBE protocols for temperature measurements and observations
4.  Explain that energy can be transferred from one place to another
5.  Relate snow cover and the presence of trees to the condition of underlying ground.  We could extrapolate to permafrost conditions as well.

Alaska Grade Level Expectations:
[9] SA1.1 The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring, and communicating.  This coincides with the CSD process skills listed above.
[10] SA1.1 The student demonstrates an understanding of the processes of science by asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, analyzing data, developing models, inferring, and communicating.
[9] SC3.1 The student demonstrates an understanding that all organisms are linked to each other and their physical environments through the transfer and transformation of matter and energy by describing the carbon and nitrogen cycle within an ecosystem and how the continual input of energy from sunlight keeps the process going.
[10] SC3.1 The student demonstrates an understanding that all organisms are linked to each other and their physical environments through the transfer and transformation of matter and energy by relating the carbon cycle to global climate change.
Activity Procedure:
1. Ask students what they know about energy transfer and in specific about that transfer in soil and snow.  Explain that we'll be observing snow conditions and taking temperature measurements in three locations: at the base of a tree and at a location away from trees at the surface and base of the the snow cover.  At this point, take time to craft a relevant testable question, about snow cover and temperature.  Each student predicts the temperature at each location and records their prediction and reasoning on a data recording sheet.  This sheet will have space for predictions, observations of the data collection site, snow depth and temperature readings. and reflections/analysis of data.  Discuss students' reasoning as a group and give time for students to add to or modify their predictions at this time.

We could use the TD video Observe Precipitation as an anticipatory set; it shows precipitation in various forms. 

2.  Before going out to take measurements, learn GLOBE protocols for: Precipitation (to learn how to measure snow depth), Automated Soil and Air Temperature (adapt to taking the temperature of different soil and snow depths), Land Cover Sample Site (adapt to learn about how to observe and describe our collection site).  In small groups, students will learn procedures for the protocols listed.  Each group will model their protocol by acting it out for the entire group.

3.  From Unite Us:  "In the book, Shadows on the Koyukuk, by Sidney Huntington (as told to Jim Rearden), Huntington tells the story of his grandmother Anna. In the winter of 1904 Anna was waylaid in Nome. No riverboats would run until breakup. Wanting desperately to return home to her children, she decided to travel more than 400 miles on foot to reach her home. Read students this story from the book (starting on page 17 and ending on page 22 in the sixth edition of the book, published in 2000). Ask students to listen for ways that Anna was able to survive when forced to camp out in the cold. (Examples in the book include burrowing into snow banks and getting in under the trunks of big spruce trees.) Discuss if/how this story supports or counters their predictions made above."

Other cultural resources that we could connect to our study:
Inuit Observations of Climate Change: this could be used to illustrate the importance of observations as well as data collection.  It could also be a motivator to do climate change interviews with community members later in the lesson.

From Students Measure Changes in Lake Ice and Snow
4. Go to a designated location, one with both evergreens and open space with no trees.  Ask students to use what they learned from the Land Cover Sample Site protocol to describe our field site and record those observations on their data recording sheets.  We'll be conducting research much like the ALISON project students, image at left, at this point.

5.  Students also record their observations of the snow in the area with evergreens and the snow in the open area.  Students record differences in the amount and appearance of snow in each area.  Students can also modify their temperature predictions at this time.

6.  In groups, students follow the Precipitation and Soil and Air temperature protocols to measure the snow depth and to take temperature readings at our data collection points: under evergreens, in the open both on top of the snow and at the base of snow cover.  Students enter readings into the laptop and/or on their snow observation forms.

7.   Back in the classroom, share and record temperature and snow depth readings from the data collection site as well as observations of the site.  Ask students to use their observation forms to discuss any patterns they noticed in snow depth and where we found the highest/lowest snow temperature readings (and soil temperature readings if we're able to take those).  Discuss students' thinking behind the patterns they observed.  Make predictions about temperature readings we might see at different sites, i.e. places with even greater snow depth, closer to the seashore, at higher elevations, etc.

Some visual aids from Unite Us to help in our data analysis and discussion:

Other resources to aid us in linking snow cover to overall climate and earth systems learning:

Unite Us has many multimedia resources we could use, two good examples are their Ecosystems and Permafrost and How Ground Freezes interactives.  The first shows heat transfer in the summer vs. the winter in tundra, tussocks and black spruce.  There's a lecture from Kenji Yoshikawa of UAF called Journey to Permafrost which also may be of interest to some of our students as he's drilled for permafrost at some of our school district sites. 

Students Measure Changes in Lake Ice and Snow and Alaska Native Teens Help Researchers can be used to promote further interest in becoming involved in data collection, inquiry and using the GLOBE program to share data with actual scientists.  We could use the "Alaska Native Teens" video as an anticipatory set at the outset of the lesson as well.

Also from Teachers' Domain:
The Hydrologic Cycle interactive is a review of the water cycle, if needed.
Earth's Cryosphere: The Arctic could introduce students to the cryosphere in general and snow's place in it.
Earth's Albedo and Global Warming could help us connect what we've learned about heat transfer and snow cover to climate change.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has many good resource we could use:
Their All About the Cryosphere page can connect our study to a broader climate study while their All About Snow page has many historical connections that could help with our community interviews, see step 8.

NASA had some great lessons about heat transfer, one example is Heat: An Agent of Change.  

From YouTube:
Bill Nye the Science Guy on Heat is a great explanation of the heat energy found in cold things.  Conduction, Convection and Radiation is a great rap on the subject.

8.  Discuss interview questions we could use in gathering local snow stories. Then ask students to gather stories from elders in the community.  Possible topics could be major snow events community members have experienced, snow survival stories similar to the one from Shadows on the Koyukuk, heavy and light snowfall years and their impact on people's homes, jobs, plants and animals, etc.  See related images from NSIDC's All About Snow page at right and below.

9.  Share interviews at a later date.  We could film these for a short video or book, the museum in Valdez is very receptive to sharing student work as is the Civic Center.  If we made a video, the latter could show it as a movie preview as they've done for other student videos in the past.

Last but not least, I found a great unit called Observing Snow from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.  It has a wealth of information we can use.  Before interviewing community members, we could tap into their section on eliciting elder input.   Before describing our data collection site, we could use their section on meshing native and western scientific observations to help us make better observations.  Their section about native language terms for snow in its many different forms would also be a good one to read before observing the snow at our site.

1. Continue the study by gathering data at different locations around Valdez.   

2.  Use this lesson as an introduction to permafrost, it's importance in the Alaskan landscape and it's role in climate change.  We could use any of the resources in our last module for this.  The Exploratorium has a good Tundra and Permafrost page that could also help.

2. Check out the TD interactive Snowflake Physics to learn more about snowflake morphology.

3.  Igloo 101 is a fun interactive on the best kind of snow to build igloos.  This could be a fun cultural connection and jumping off point for making our own snow structures.

4.  Learn more about life in the subnivean zone.

5.  Learn about wilderness survival, avalanche safety, etc.  Avalanche Town from Teacher's Domain would be fun for Valdez kids to see.

Final Thought
I am thankful to be able to tap into such a variety of resources in designing a lesson like this.  Before taking this class, I would not have used resources such as Teachers' Domain, YouTube, Unite Us, etc.  I would have looked into background information sources but would not have had access to the video, audio, and interactive resources I've been exposed to through this course.  The other big take away for me will be the connection to the bigger climate and earth systems picture.  I now have some valuable background information and resources to help my students make this connection.

Thanks to all for sharing resources throughout each of our course modules!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Module IX: Terrestrial Cryosphere

Couldn't resist putting in this Columbia Glacier picture of my husband's.  What a splendid element of the terrestrial cryosphere!  I'll talk a bit about the glacier in this week's blog.

Explain: What new learning have you taken from this module?
As always, this week's module brought a lot of new information and a review of information long buried in my memory to the forefront.  There was such a wide range of resources and information presented with a short amount of time to review it.  I'll just share a few that were relevant to my personal experiences in the state as well as topics I'm hoping to cover with students in the coming year.

One alarming new piece of information to me was from the YouTube video Burping Lakes.  I did know that methane and carbon dioxide are released from melting permafrost and lakes.  I didn't realize that the amount of carbon in permafrost is equal to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.  Nor did I realize that the amount of methane that can come from melting lakes is equal to ten times the amount in the atmosphere already or that methane's effect as a greenhouse gas is 23 times stronger than carbon dioxide.  Scary thoughts.
The TD video Changing Arctic Landscape reminded me of insect infestations we have in the Clear/Anderson area.  Each spring, we get insects that everyone calls leaf miners.  Within two weeks of budding each spring every single aspen leaf has spiraled, white paths bored into them by these insects.  Another connection we experienced was increased wildfires.  Two summers ago our cabin was smack in the middle of raging fires.  Five miles to the west was the largest fire in the state and 7 miles to the east was a coal seam fire that evacuated a neighborhood just a few miles up the highway from us.  It's not hard to believe global warming threats are real when you live in the north.  

Another connection I made was to the TD video Earth's Cryosphere: Antarctica.  One fact from the video was that Antarctica contains 70% of the earth's fresh water but is one of the driest places on earth.  The interior of Alaska doesn't contain nearly this amount of water, but it is a dryer place than many would think.  Folks are always surprised that while we have snow all winter, braided streams, bogs and mosquitoes, the area is a subarctic desert.  People tend to think of hotter locations being dryer.

I didn't find lots of new resources to share this week as there were so many good ones listed already that I want to go back and explore in more depth.  We've had many good NOAA links included in our modules, but I did see one good link within it.  Their Global Warming FAQ page is a brief but good one if you're looking for some quick information and graphics.  It might be useful as a quick review or introduction to the broader topic of global warming.  At left is a a graph from the page showing that average snowfall has been decreasing in the past two decades.  Another good one to share with all is Annenberg Media.  They have many good, free video resources on their site for a variety of subject areas, including those quirky Spanish and French language video series many of us watched in high school.  Here's a link for their science resources which has a few videos series that look relevant to our course: Earth Revealed, The Habitable Planet, Planet Earth, etc. 

A really wonderful resource is GLOBE, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment.  The program is a "worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program. GLOBE's vision promotes and supports students, teachers and scientists to collaborate on inquiry-based investigations of the environment and the Earth system working in close partnership with NASA, NOAA and NSF Earth System Science Projects (ESSP's) in study and research about the dynamics of Earth's environment."

I'm not sure if you have to be a registered member in order to fully participate or how that process works but their websites has lots of relevant resources to use.  Their Classic Globe website has teacher guides, data sets that can be used to teach analysis, protocols, examples of current student projects, etc.  It's not the most intuitive website to navigate but is you search under the Teacher and Student tabs you're sure to find things you can use.  Their Elementary Globe page is a bit more user friendly.

Extend: How can/will you use this week's resources in your lessons?

This week's module contained a lot of resources that promote active rather than passive learning.  I really liked the TD Interactive Documenting Glacial Change.  It begins with asking students to view various photographs to observe changes in the landscape that glaciers leave behind.  Moving the slide bar on the images to see how they looked 60-100 years ago compared to today really shows the changes dramatically, see images at left.  These images are also good illustrations of the vegetation that crops up in a glacier's wake.  I can see linking this to albedo and it's effect on global warming.

I also really like the "Drop in the Bucket" and "Glacier Ice-Sea Level" activities where we estimated measurements and then checked USGS data to see how close those estimates were.  Any opportunity to get students active in their learning and checking their own understanding is wonderful.  In this vein, I'd also want students use the Nenana Ice Classic breakup log data to create graphs.  A similar activity is Nova's "What's Up With the Weather" in which students graph temperature data and learn about "the moving average".

Extend: How useful, insightful or relevant are this module's resources and information to you?

As we've been experiencing lots of windy weather this month, I found the National Snow and Ice Data Center's All About Snow section to be really relevant to students in Valdez.  One new term I learned on the site is sastrugi.  These are wind sculpted snow ridges that form when wind erodes and drifts the snow.  We have lots of those around here now. 

Another relevant resource to use locally is the Extreme Ice Survey layer for Google Earth.  I found some good images showing the Columbia Glacier's retreat over the course of a year.  There was also a video showing part of the glacier rising and falling with the tide.  A bit of info from the site that I didn't know is that " just 22 years ago, Columbia Glacier was 1,300 feet higher than it is today.  The loss is equivalent in height of the Empire State Building and has retreated 10 miles since 1984."  At right is an image of the Columbia Glacier from the Extreme Ice Survey layer.
One more Columbia Glacier shot from my husband.

3 Colleague's Blogs
Here are comments posted on others' blogs this week:

Lila's Thoughts on Integrating Ways of Knowing:  It's inspiring that you can give birth to a beautiful new baby and keep up with blogging.  Wow!  
You give a great summary of the information presented in this week's module.  I, too, was surprised to learn that Alaska pays $35 million a year in permafrost damage.  Thanks for the links for Antarctic research and for sharing the good links you found on Alaskool.

Winsore's Explore Alaska Blog: I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder hook on your blog.  I used to love those books, too.  I think I'm a teacher in part because of the influence of those books.  Thanks for the reminder about the stories on Alaska Native Knowledge Network and the reminder to use them, in addition to indigenous language place names, as a hook or connection to interest students.  

Explore Alaska:  I found the positive feedback loop information to be scary also.  So was the idea of triggers or thresholds that once met could precipitate massive accelerated climate change.  Yikes!  I'm also sorry to hear about the air pollution vote in Fairbanks.  I used to live south of Nenana so Fairbanks was our shopping hub.  I would dread going there in the winter as I would get an asthma attack every time I got out of my car from the exhaust, inversion layers and the cold combined. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Module VIII: Cryosphere Introduction

Essential Question: How are Arctic sea-ice, climate and culture all connected?

Explain: What new learning or reflections have you taken from this module?   
I had never heard the term cryosphere before taking this class so much of this week's information was new to me.  One fact that really surprised me was that 3/4 of the drinking water in the West comes from snow melt.  I'm not sure where I thought it came from as I know it's a dry environment but that figure was higher than I realized.  I wonder what that figure would be for the dry interior of our state.  We really noticed a difference in vegetation following low snow winters when I lived in the Denali Borough.  I'd love to see data showing snowfall in winter and then vegetation cover the following spring and summer.   

While I didn't find any data connecting snowfall and vegetation in Alaska this week, I did find several good resources to extend my own learning about the cryosphere.  One that I stumbled across is the Exploratorium: the museum of science, art and human perception.  If you go to the Explore tab at the top of this page and then click Earth you'll find a lot of great links relevant to climate change and the Arctic.

This image is from the Ice Stories series on the Exploratorium website.   It is of Canadian scientists working with Innu Elders to learn more about local ecology.  The article is titled  Pairing Scientific and Traditional Knowledge.

The article from which the image above was taken echos the concerns in the Cultural Connections section of this week's module.  So does the video Will Global Warming Alter the Inupiaq Way of Life?  The image to the right is of Daniel Lum who shares a few observations of how climate change has affected hunting in Barrow, the effects this has had on traditional knowledge, and his concern that his children won't be able to "experience what he's known".

The State of the Cryosphere website from the National Snow and Ice Center has more good background information related to this week's module.  The images above are from this website and indicate articles about different forms of solid water, i.e. glaciers, sea ice and snow.  I didn't consider permafrost, frozen lakes or snow as being part of the cryosphere before this week's module.  For some reason, I thought of sea ice, icebergs and glaciers of the poles alone as being part of the cryosphere. 

Extend: How might you use these resources in your classroom and community?
We have a few cryosphere-related inquiry projects happening in our district.  The resources in this week's module would support building background knowledge for these.  Kids in Chenega Bay are doing an inquiry project about whether ground temperatures are warmer or colder in areas with more or less snow cover.  The kids are convinced that more snow cover will make the ground colder.  I'll definitely be sharing resources from this week's module with Chenega teachers.

In Valdez, I'm helping some students put together an inquiry project about snowfall.  They're noticing that the weather can be very different even a short way out of town, just five or ten miles up the road.  So, they're wondering if there's also a big difference in the amount of snowfall in different locations in Valdez.  I'd like to connect this inquiry to a boarder picture of the cryosphere's role in shaping the planet's climate.  Resources like Earth's Cryosphere: The Arctic would help with this.  Arctic Climate System also had great visuals showing how wind and ocean currents distribute heat around the planet.

I would love to later branch out into anthropogenic factors contributing to climate change.  I could use resources like the Earth's Albedo and Global Warming interactive.  The Sea Ice section gives a really good visual of what a 10% decrease in sea ice per decade looks like.   I'd also like to focus on using and analyzing data.  Students will be doing this with the data they collect in their snowfall inquiry, but I'd also like to do so in relation to climate change.  NOAA's Barrow, Alaska Observatory has some almost real time climate data from Barrow.  To the right is a graph showing atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements taken over decades.

Evaluate: How useful/relevant are this module's resources and information?
According to the TD video Earth's Cryosphere: The Arctic, the Bering Sea could be ice free in the summer by the end of this century.  According to Steve MacLean we could lose sea ice within 40-50 years in the Arctic.  If either situation is true then we certainly need to be more aware of how the cryosphere interacts with the hydrosphere and atmosphere to influence our climate.  The resources in this module are certainly valuable in raising this awareness.  Also, considering that we live in a place filled with frozen water, these resources will help students better understand their immediate environment, it's structure and the implications for them of the impending changes to it.

3 Colleagues' Blogs
Below are comments I posted on others' blogs this week:
Explore Alaska: I really enjoy your writing style and the way you connect each week's information to your personal observations.  It makes your blog an intriguing read.  Thanks for this week's links.  It's always helpful to have more ways to look at information. 

Indian Crk: Thanks for the link to the flame test.  I never considered that wiki links may have experiments to use in  class.  Anyway, that sounds like a really good one to engage students.  Please don't apologize for the book links; they're great. 

Eric Explores Alaska!: Thanks for the reference to Living Downstream.  I agree that it's a tragedy that people in Alaska are experiencing the negative effects of pollution being produced elsewhere.  Since I live a stone's throw from a refinery and the terminus the pipeline here in Valdez, I'm very concerned about pollution being produced right across the bay here.

I also loved your random observation about homework.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Module VII: Changing Climate Introduction

Explain: What new learning/reflections have you taken from this module?
The Cultural Connections resources were really good reminders of the importance of integrating Western and AK Native scientific knowledge.  Inuit Observations of Climate Change illustrated how indigenous people provide not only local knowledge but "different ways of understanding relationships".  The evidences for climate change that local people brainstormed showed well how local people can observe subtleties that advanced monitoring equipment doesn't detect.  Observations like different types of fish being seen in an area, geese staying for shorter amounts of time in the spring, and slower freeze-ups based on observations of how late into the fall you can still boat, are diverse pieces of information that can't be picked up by instruments alone or during brief visits to an area.

This last point was echoed in Alaska Teens Help Researchers.  When enlisting local help scientists are getting insights and involvement from people for whom a study site is "home and not just a location for field studies".  Often scientists are challenged by communicating with the general public in ways that connect.  This was not the case at all for the students who were involved in the research around Nome and who felt so strongly about using the data they were collecting to preserve their environment.

La'ona DeWilde: Environmental Biologist also speaks to the importance of local knowledge.  She spoke of the vast size of Alaska and how remote and unmapped locations are in our state.  What a benefit to get information from people who live in a place rather than collecting it in compacted trips.  Her study was also a good example of meeting the AFN Board Policy Guidelines for Research which identifies the need to "make research usable and useful at a local level".  Because her research met a community need there was a great interest in the research and ready participation in it.

While viewing this module's Cultural Connections I was wishing that we had seen some of these resources, especially Inuit Observations of Climate Change, in our first module about Western science and traditional AK Native knowledge as these were full of really good, concrete examples of what that difference looks like.

While it was the Cultural Connections section that really made me reflect, I learned a lot from all sections of this week's module.  As I'm just beginning to work with high school students in the area of science, and am removed from college by more years than I'll publish, almost all of the resources in this week's module provided really good background information for me in a context that was compelling.  I'll be using my notes in the future.

Extend: How might you use this week's information and resources?  What other resources can you share?
As I have a phobia of teaching chemistry, I really appreciated the Periodic Table of Elements interactive.  It's really helpful to see the configuration of elements and the Mystery Element feature is a good application of information about how the table is organized.  Another resource I've used for building my own background knowledge is the Stop Faking It! series from NSTA.  There are lots of hands-on applications in the books that could be used with students as well.  In addition to this series, there are many learning modules for teachers and students in the NSTA Learning Center

The comments, especially the Twain statistics quote, on Information is Beautiful: Climate Consensus reminded me of the necessity to teach students how to interpret data.  Otherwise, they will be prey to anyone's fuzzy math or manipulation of information.  I can see using data from a site like this to teach those analysis skills.  It could be fun to change graphs units of measure or scales to misrepresent data to prove the point to students to be critical readers.  

I was introduced to a few really good climate related resources lately that I'd like to share.  One is Global Climate Change Interactive Quizzes from NASA.  We just took these quizzes at a district wide inservice and it was hysterical to here teachers critique the quizzes when they entered incorrect answers.  We adults really don't like to be wrong sometimes.  They're pretty quick quizzes and have links to good background information.

Screen shot from Virtual Classroom Resources
Another excellent tool is Virtual Classroom Resources from Unite Us.  Not all of the links are working or complete on this site but there's enough good information and cultural connections to make it worthwhile to be patient with it.  The Warmer Temperatures section of the Ever Present Change Database section has information about how people in Alaska are being affected by climate change.  The video Hunting for Methane with Katy Walter Anthony is one of several excellent ones on the site.  The interview Chief Robert Charlie Talks about the Wind is a wonderful example of indigenous ways of knowing.

Finally, if you are in the Fairbanks or Juneau area and are interested in communicating science with a focus on Ocean Sciences this class may be of interest to you.  Just click on the course flyer link when you get to this page.  It may have been better to include this with Module V but I just received the email.

How useful did are this module's resources and information?

When you live in a place where communities are literally located in the middle of climate change, you don't need to question if this week's modules are useful. 

These images are of Kivalina.  After borrowing the one on the left from my husband, I thought it would be interesting to see it from a Google Earth perspective, see image below.  My husband flies around the state and often sends me pictures of villages that are precariously perched on or right next to peninsulas, rivers or the ocean.  I'd love to know how folks in Kivalina feel about global warming.  It seems that it would be very difficult to doubt it's existence when your life is so integrally connected to the land around you.

3 Colleague's Blogs
I'm trying to get around to diverse blogs but revisited some this week as I wanted to read what others' had to say about this week's module.
Alaskanwisdom has excellent classroom ideas I'll definitely tuck in my pocket.  Thanks!  While searching for resources this week I came across a site called Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears you might find interesting.  It's on online magazine for K-5 students.  

I always enjoy reading Alison's blog as she has a great personable voice.  I agree about the Elements Forged in Stars video.  After watching that I now understand what they meant in the music video with Carl Sagan and Bil Nye when they said we're made of stardust.  That phrase surprised and eluded me earlier in this class.  Unfortunately, I also agreed about the depressing nature of much of this module.  The interactive Capturing Carbon: Where do We Put It? was the low point for me as it seemed that any possible solution for reducing carbon in the atmosphere, besides obviously using less fossil fuels, had as many possible dangers as benefits associated with it.

Thanks to Amy for the reminder about how scientists interviewed people who skin and process animals for observations about an animal's overall health.  I was impressed with the diversity of information that could be gathered about climate change from people who live in an area and observe it year round.  Seeing change through the lens of daily activities was also interesting.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Module VI: Atmospheric Systems Introduction

What new learning/reflections have you taken from this module?

In playing around with the Google Earth weather layer, I noticed the webcam layer as well.  On the left, is a screen shot of the weather layer image on Tuesday.  It's hard to see but there are little icons that link to webcams in different locations.  Below is an image of the Valdez webcam on that same day.  We were in the midst of our first good snowfall.  It's handy to have these resources in one place.

In addition to learning about the weather layer in Google Earth and gaining resources for weather-related images, much of the information in the Cultural Connections section was new to me.  I knew about biomagnification, how animals higher up the food chain have higher concentrations of toxins.  I didn't realize that most of those toxins were being carried from lower latitudes north by ocean and wind currents that increased the amount of toxins in the arctic.  Especially alarming was the assertion that Barrow has the highest levels of reactive mercury measured on earth, Contaminants in the Arctic Food Chain.  

I knew about the albedo effect but didn't know about the ice-albedo feedback loop until watching Arctic Haze.  The fact that pollutants are darkening snow and ice and so causing them to absorb more heat is new to me.  I also didn't know that aerosols in the atmosphere were causing more and smaller cloud droplets causing clouds to be more reflective so that they'd heat the earth's surface more here in the north.  All of this information speaks again to how connected we all are on this planet.

How would you use the resources in this week's module in your lessons?  How useful are the resources in this week's module?
As I work more often as a consultant to teachers and don't have a classroom of my own this year, I find that these two questions are often linked as I go through these modules.  This week I'll try answering them in tandem.  I could speak to the value of several of the resources in Module VI but I'll highlight the power of just a few. 

The TD interactive Giving Rise to the Jet Stream is good one for breaking apart all of the factors that cause the jet stream.  It's easier to process these factors (high and low pressure systems, earth's spin, movement of warm tropical air to the poles and back again, etc.) one by one.  Also, seeing created, moving visuals helps deepen understanding.  As textbook images are static, they're limited in helping students understand dynamic forces.

Not all students easily create visualizations of what they read so I really see these interactives as a tool to reach more students.   The TD 5-Day View of the Jet Stream and YouTube video Water Vapor Circulation would be good follow-ups to Giving Rise the the Jet Stream as these images allow you to see the interplay of jet stream forces in action.  Students could discuss factors they think are causing the changes they see happening. 

The Jet Stream and Horizontal Temperature Gradient could help students construct knowledge about how temperatures at the equator affect wind speeds at different latitudes and longitudes.  Textbook learning is so passive and there's real power in students being able to discover concepts for themselves.  Having student use Google Earth's weather layer, or NASA images, to search for weather pattern images could be a good constructivist lesson and a good assessment of understanding.  Speaking of assessments, NASA has some great global warming quizzes that connect to learning about atmospheric systems as information in past modules.

Finally, I appreciate the TD video Ocean Temperatures and Climate Patterns' inclusion again in this module.  It was good to revisit it with eye for atmospheric effects rather than ocean system effects this time.  Having students create a venn diagram to compare oceanic and atmospheric systems would be a good way to help students see the connection between the two systems.

As most of the families I work with use textbook-based programs to teach science, I see these TD resources being really valuable to help deepen their students' learning.  Google Earth will be a great tool to alternately bring that learning home and connect it on a global scale.

3 Colleagues' Blogs
I related to what Dave said on his Explore Alaska blog about meeting many people in Alaska who don't believe global warming is a real phenomenon.  I work with many people who are skeptics.  The free iphone app Skeptical Science was just recommended to me to help when negotiating this issue with students and families.  There is a corresponding Skeptical Science website as well.  I agree with you that I want to be respectful of others' values and opinions; however, I don't want that to diminish teaching opportunities for students.  There's a careful balance to be achieved in many concepts we come across in the classroom.

I, like Dan Adair, was also embarrassed that I hadn't realized that industrial pollutants from the south were being seen in animals here in Alaska.  Especially since I knew that there were high levels of things like mercury in fish in the arctic.  Thanks for the tip on adding external links to Teacher's Domain folders, very helpful.

Like Tyler mentioned on his Alaskanwisdom site,  I also have spent time in and around Fairbanks and easily pictured haze coming from our own car exhaust and wood and coal stoves.  You made a great connection between weather patterns and subsistence when talking about deer hunting. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Module V: Ocean Systems Introductions

Essential Question: How are climate, cultures and oceans all connected?

Explain: What new learning or reflections have you taken away from this module?
This module, and past modules, are giving me tools to help students see concepts as a part of earth cycles and systmes and how the components of each work together.  Having been educated in a compartmentalized educational system, I think I learned a lot of isolated terms and processes without putting them together and seeing how they interact with one another.  It seems the end goal was to learn material to pass a formatted test.

So it's important that students see how processes like evaporation, condensation, heat capacity, etc. combine to form a cycle, like the water cycle.  Then they can see what that cycle's role is a broader system like the hydrosphere.  Finally, students can build on that foundation to linking earth systems together to see how it's all about energy transfer; the sun's heat and the earth's internal heat driving cycles that move energy and material through the components of the earth system.   

Having more ready resources to help make these connects is very valuable. Also, I don't think we often looked at global patterns and interactions in my own educational past, perhaps because global warming wasn't such a well-known or accepted phenomenon at that time.  It seems we have a much more compelling reason to do so now.

Another reflection that this module sparked was that of the impact of global warming on native Alaskan cultures.  I've thought of the effects on subsistence harvests but I hadn't thought of the impact on traditional knowledge.  In the TD video Global Warming Threatens Shishmaref the point is made that "traditional knowledge about weather patterns and ice conditions has become less reliable due to the accelerated pace of climate change".  Living from the Land and Sea speaks to how subsistence communities abide by certain rules in order to sustain the harvest.  Besides making hunting more challenging and potentially more dangerous, what does this change mean for how knowledge is passed between generations?  Are codes of behavior as relevant in a shifting landscape where subsistence harvests are changing? 
Extend: How might you use this week's resources in your lessons?
I can see using YouTube videos like Coriolis Effect and the TD video Ocean Temperatures and Climate Patterns as part of a study of how solar heating, wind, gravity and coriolis effect cause ocean currents.  Other sites I found this week that could help build background knowledge are Oceans Alive: Oceans in Motion and Ocean Motion, from NASA .  

I would want to start these studies with hands-on inquiry.  Oceans Alive has great hands-on ideas that could help students begin asking questions and constructing knowledge about ocean currents.  The TD Interactive Sea Surface Temperatures would be really helpful in teaching students how to observe climate data and pick out patterns.  Graphs like the ones included in this module would also help students learn to analyze data and search for patterns.  Questions generated from this activity could then be answered with the resources mentioned above so the patterns could then be analyzed and explained. 
Evaluate: How useful, insightful, or relevant are this module's information and resources? 
I see the videos from this week's module reinforcing and extending learning about ocean systems.  The visuals would help students really see these systems in action.  Seeing features across the globe on Google Earth can add to that experience.  I like Google Earth features like real-time data, historical views and National Geographic article links that can add background information to the images.  Resources from the Cultural Connections section make learning this information relevant especially as the arctic is a place where global warming effects are being seen first and first-hand.

3 Colleagues' Blogs
I like what Eric says in Eric Explores Alaska! about connecting with students' experiences.  He makes great connections between storytelling traditions in similar geographic locations.  Finally, great connections between geography, migration and culture.  

Thanks to Cheryl for the Arctic Time Lapse link on Explore Palmer!  What a great idea to make just such a video with kids in our area.   

Great pictures on Exploring Alaska with Kenai Kathy.  I also love the current events links in the sidebar.  Thanks for sharing how you used Google Earth in tracking crane migration, also a great idea.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Module IV: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis

This picture shows my husband and dog during one snowfall we experienced last year in Valdez.  This one snowfall dumped more than 5 feet of snow.  Just one snowfall!
 The picture below shows the dashboard of a plane my husband was flying in this summer in Barrow.

These images are in the same folder in my mind as images of things like throwing hot water from a pan when it's 50 below and watching it freeze before it hits the ground.  Alternately, watching my husky pant for all he's worth in the summer because it's 90 degrees outside and he's just too hot to move.  Wild insect hatches like the one in spring when little gray moths covered every inch of every surface outside and the next spring when yellow jacket nests could be seen every 10 feet down the trail around my cabin.  The folder that contains all of these images is my "Alaska is One Extreme Place to Live" file. 

Explain: What new learning have you taken from this module?
Added to that file now are ones from the TD videos this week.  I've seen pictures of the 1964 Earthquake in Valdez but now I can add images of what a strike-slip fault looks like and the shape and length of the Aleutian Trench.  My image of tsunami waves has shifted from one of giant cresting waves to a sudden mass of water filling the land and the sounds of a train or helicopter are added as well.  The 1958 Lituya Bay Tsunami is also now in that file along with a better idea of the physical landscape of the area that contributed to scope of waves.  A USGS site about historic earthquakes contained some aerial images of that tsunami that helped to form pictures of its effects.  

Having lived in Tatitlek, I knew that the Good Friday Earthquake destroyed the original Chenega village site.  I also knew that people still mourn that event each year and that many still feel its devastating effects.  What I didn't realize is that it took 20 years for the new village site to be established or that 1/3 of the population was killed in that event.  The people of Chenega showed a great measure of resiliency in reforming their village after being so far flung for so long. 

In addition to the Alaska file, is an understanding of how the Hawaiian islands were formed.  Seeing visuals from the TD video Hawaiian Archipelago helped solidify my understanding of this process.  Now it really makes sense that only the big island has active volcanoes and how the volcanoes in that chain differ from the Aleutian Chain.

Extend: How can you use this week's resources in your community and lessons?
Again, there were good interactives for kinesthetic learners like Once and Future Tsunamis and Anatomy of a Volcano.   I was just talking to a high school student last week who complained that videos often go too fast for her to be able to pick up concepts.  Being able to control the pace of interactives will be helpful for her.  Again, the visuals in these videos are essential.   Many of my students aren't visual learners and don't pick out important details in textbook diagrams, or they struggle to visualize what they are reading.  Both of these problems are alleviated through the videos and interactives from this module.  Student will be able to view these at their own pace, pause and review when needed, and link to other resources if they're not understanding a concept fully. 

The cataclysmic nature of these events holds a natural fascination for kids, and adults.  YouTube videos like the BBC Nature-Mega Tsunami put a human story to these phenomenon and will make geology more compelling to a broader audience.  Interactives like Deadly Volcanoes really illustrate the need to learn about earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. 

The power of the Real-Time Earthquakes feature in Google Earth was illustrated this week.  I noticed the Indonesian earthquake on Monday and was sad to see the consequences of that on the news the following day.  

3 Colleagues' Blogs
I could relate to what Esther said on Explore Alaska about struggling with learning geology.  I could expand that to science concepts in general for me.  I really appreciate the fact that she shared that.  While I don't have any great advice, I can sympathize. 

I visited the Dan Adair Blog site and really appreciated getting some links aimed at elementary aged students.  One I like is Windows to the Universe from the National Earth Science Teachers Association.

I enjoy the stories from the classroom on David's website, like the Uppa's story about the river flowing backward during the 1964 Earthquake.  I'm also impressed with how quickly he's applying resources from this course to his classroom.  The cranberry picture from the last module is gorgeous and beautifully framed.