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.


  1. Thanks for sharing the NASA Interactive Quizzes
    – great resource that I will use! I also like your comments about teachers taking the quizzes and getting the wrong answers. Humbles us now and then to be the student and learn what we don’t know!

  2. Thank you for sharing such incredible teacher resources. I can't wait to try them out.