From the field to classrooms: Scientists and educators collaborating to develop K-12 lessons on arctic carbon cycling and climate change that align with Next Generation Science Standards, and informal outreach programs that bring authentic data to informal audiences.

Friday, 19 December 2014
Regina Brinker, Granada High School, Livermore, CA, United States and Rose Merin Cory, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Ann Arbor, MI, United States
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) calls for students across grade levels to understand climate change and its impacts. To achieve this goal, the NSF-sponsored PolarTREC program paired an educator with scientists studying carbon cycling in the Arctic. The data collection and fieldwork performed by the team will form the basis of hands-on science learning in the classroom and will be incorporated into informal outreach sessions in the community.

Over a 16-day period, the educator was stationed at Toolik Field Station in the High Arctic. (Toolik is run by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Institute of Arctic Biology.) She participated in a project that analyzed the effects of sunlight and microbial content on carbon production in Artic watersheds. Data collected will be used to introduce the following NGSS standards into the middle-school science curriculum: 1) Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence.

2) Develop a model to explain cycling of water. 3) Develop and use a model to describe phenomena. 4) Analyze and interpret data. 5) A change in one system causes and effect in other systems. Lessons can be telescoped to meet the needs of classrooms in higher or lower grades. Through these activities, students will learn strategies to model an aspect of carbon cycling, interpret authentic scientific data collected in the field, and conduct geoscience research on carbon cycling.

Community outreach sessions are also an effective method to introduce and discuss the importance of geoscience education. Informal discussions of firsthand experience gained during fieldwork can help communicate to a lay audience the biological, physical, and chemical aspects of the arctic carbon cycle and the impacts of climate change on these features. Outreach methods will also include novel use of online tools to directly connect audiences with scientists in an effective and time-efficient manner.