Exploring Global Climate Change Through Problem-based Learning:
End of Project Report
Since 1996, the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future Exploring the Environment® website has engaged thousands of teachers, students, and life-long learners from around the globe in problem-based learning introductions to Earth science topics and issues. The Exploring the Environment web-modules have called for citizen scientist exploration of topics such as weather, population growth, land use patterns, water pollution, and most recently, climate science.
In 2010 funding from the NASA Global Climate Change Education program selected the Exploring Global Climate Change Through Problem-based Learning project to receive funding through the Center for Educational Technologies at Wheeling Jesuit University to develop six new problem-based learning modules that focus on global climate change. These new additions bring to 31 modules and activities available in Exploring the Environment. As this NASA-funding draws to a close, we are happy to report that educators from virtually every state and from 17 countries have registered on the site to access the teacher support materials for the six new modules—Global Temperatures, Biodiversity, Drought, Human Health Effects, Ice Caps and Sea Levels, and Volcanoes.
While we it is very difficult to stop our work on this project, we want to celebrate what we have achieved in these three years with collaboration from our teachers. Here we provide highlights from our closeout report. Below we encourage teachers to download the full report and review what we accomplished and what we learned from this three-year effort.
The new modules funded in this project raise the Exploring the Environment site to new levels of sophistication while exploring current views of global climate change. They feature a wealth of NASA satellite data and other state-of-the-art imagery and remote sensing data.
Among the project’s highlights in addition to the design and development of the new modules were successful approval from the NASA Product Review Process, workshops delivered at the 2011 and 2013 National Science Teachers Association annual conferences, a presentation to the West Virginia Science Teachers Association in 2010, and thorough pilot testing conducted through the Wheeling Jesuit University Education program.
The Appendix includes the full evaluation conducted by an external organization on the Exploring Global Climate Change Through Problem-based Learning project. The evaluation reports insights from teachers who completed the extensive online survey. Unfortunately, less than 20 percent of those registered to access the teacher pages completed the survey.
Based on the feedback from teachers and their students, we learned that teachers are very interested in covering the topic of climate change and climate science in their curriculum. The list of courses and curriculum contexts presented in Table 2 of the full report shows where the ETE-GCC modules are potentially being used. This demonstrates the adaptability of PBL as a pedagogical approach. Many teachers from across the disciplines can find meaningful ways to use these climate change PBL modules in the context of their course curriculum. Based on the results of our external evaluation, we can see that teachers can use the modules in meaningful ways, but we also see that implementation, depth of study, and use of the embedded NASA data resources varies greatly.
The registration and request to access the ETE-GCC project teacher pages demonstrates the high interest by educators in climate science topics and in use of the PBL method. Continued efforts to engage teachers in professional development and assessment activities are extremely important. This project proves that that there is a great need for climate science information and “classroom-ready” resources, but many questions remain about how help teachers implement these PBL modules to in a way that optimizes student learning. We also see a great need to offer targeted assistance for populations who are more disconnected from climate science resources and expertise.
The Appendix includes the full evaluation conducted by an external evaluator, Trillium Associates, on the Exploring Global Climate Change Through Problem-based Learning project. The new modules integrate greater use of NASA data and imagery files, but also complement the existing “legacy” modules and activities that teachers continue to incredibly use. As the website continues to log millions of web hits, the new global climate change modules give Exploring the Environment a solid foundation for remaining valuable for years to come.