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Gulf Stream Heat Budget and Europe's Mild Climate: A Problem-based Learning Activity

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 determine whether the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping northern 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
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Ocean as climate control, oceanic conveyor belt; abrupt changes in thermohaline circulation
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
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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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1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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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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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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