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Gulf Stream Heat Budget and Europe's Mild Climate: A Problem-based Learning Activity
http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/visualization/examples/gulfstream.html

Warren C. Tomkiewicz, Plymouth State University , From the On The Cutting Edge activity collection

In this role-playing activity, learners are presented with a scenario in which they will determine whether the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe warm. They must also address the potential future of the Gulf Stream if polar ice were to continue melting. The students work in small groups to identify the issue, discuss the problem, and develop a problem statement. They are then asked what they need to know to solve the problem.

Activity takes two class periods plus homework assignment. Computer with Internet access necessary.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Covering 70% of Earth's surface, the ocean exerts a major control on climate by dominating Earth's energy and water cycles. It has the capacity to absorb large amounts of solar energy. Heat and water vapor are redistributed globally through density-driven ocean currents and atmospheric circulation. Changes in ocean circulation caused by tectonic movements or large influxes of fresh water from melting polar ice can lead to significant and even abrupt changes in climate, both locally and on global scales.
About Teaching Principle 2
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Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system. From the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun, instruments on weather stations, buoys, satellites, and other platforms collect climate data. To learn about past climates, scientists use natural records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and sedimentary layers. Historical observations, such as native knowledge and personal journals, also document past climate change.
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
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G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:A) Questioning
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A) Questioning.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
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Thermal energy carried by ocean currents has a strong influence on climates around the world. Areas near oceans tend to have more moderate temperatures than they would if they were farther inland but at the same latitude because water in the oceans can hold a large amount of thermal energy.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Different research questions should be assigned to different students so that during the final presentation knowledge about different topics is shared.

About the Science

  • From the activity summary: "The United Nations International Research Program has assigned your research group at the PSU Institute of Oceanography the task of making a recommendation as to whether the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe anomalously warm and the potential effects if polar ice were to continue melting."
  • Activity can be modified to answer numerous research questions.
  • Great way for students to learn the scientific process. A good activity before term papers are assigned.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Specific Strengths include: - students find resources and real data - students are expected to analyze real data - students work together to expand their understanding of the topic - assessment includes both written and oral presentation of findings - students predict future results based on their own working knowledge of a physical system as it functions currently, but with key physical parameters altered in response to climate change

About the Pedagogy

  • Assigning the activity to groups of students will be very effective.
  • Assessment as a rubric is suggested but not provided

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy and straightforward to use

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Also see: http://essea.strategies.org/module.php?module_id=148

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