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Global Climate Change Institute for Teachers
Past Workshops

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The first of several one-day workshops for training K-12 teachers to integrate climate change information into school curricula was held in the Natural Sciences Building at Western Oregon University (WOU) on July 11, 2008. The workshops are sponsored by the NASA Education/Public Outreach through a grant to Dr. Laurie Padman at ESR. Additional workshops in 2008 will be held on August 22 and on a teacher in-service day in Fall (date to be announced). More workshops are planned for summer 2009. To register to attend these workshops or to request further information, contact Laurie Padman at ESR or Dr. Bill Schoenfeld at WOU.

At the July workshop, 15 Oregon teachers of grades 2 to 6 learned about the natural and human ("anthropogenic") causes of climate change, and were introduced to materials that they could use in their classrooms. The teachers gained hands-on experience with experiments that explain key features of climate science, were given a variety of age-appropriate climate science books to review, and explored other aspects of climate change including carbon footprints and the idea of sustainability.

Avery Cotton presenting at workshop

Materials were presented by a group of physical scientists, a teacher educator, and a retired K-12 science teacher. Each teacher left the workshop with a binder of useful materials and web links, and the offer of in-school follow-up visits if requested.

Avery Cotton (WOU) demonstrates two models of ocean motion forced by convection. The red water is heated and the blue water is cooled. Warm water rises and flows near the surface along the upper connecting pipe: cool water sinks, and flows near the bottom along the lower connecting pipe.

picture of beaker

In the photo above a beaker containing blue-dyed water is heated under a lamp. As the water temperature rises the water rises up the narrow tube at the top, demonstrating thermal expansion and the rise of global sea level as the ocean warms. On the left, a series of thermometers at different depths records water temperature under a heat lamp. The experiment demonstrates how the upper ocean becomes stratified as heat from radiation and a warmer atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean.

Teachers graph the rise of temperature in plastic tubs, one with added CO2 and the other with regular air, under heat lamps representing solar radiation. The temperature rises much more rapidly in the tub with added CO2.

As this was the first workshop, the GIFT team learned almost as much about presenting these materials to teachers as the teachers learned about climate change. Nevertheless, the response was overwhelmingly positive. All attendees rated the course as "Above Average" or "Excellent", and 12 of 15 said that they would definitely recommend this course to others. The main criticism was that too much material was presented for a one-day workshop. The lab experiments, designed to be straightforward to set up and run, and within the teachers' budget constraints, were very well received. The GIFT team will also follow up on creating recommendations for age-appropriate books on climate science, paying attention to characteristics such as accuracy of scientific content, readability, and inspiring children to be optimistic that solutions to human-caused climate change are possible. Overall, the experience was a great success for all concerned, and the GIFT team looks forward to doing this "bigger and better" in August.