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Is that true?

Steve Hoven, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, On the Cutting Edge

In this activity, students explore whether statements made by the news and media on climate change-related issues are actually true. Examples are provided for Antarctic sea ice and hurricane intensity, but the activity could be extended to other topics as well.

This activity takes at least one class period depending on the capabilities of the students, nature of the event, whether activity serves as homework or is done in class.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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

  • This activity can be used in conjunction with almost any climate or energy topic and helps students apply scientific concepts to topics in the media. This can be an effective way to engage students with the topics, and help them see how climate and energy are closely tied to current events and news stories.
  • This activity can be helpful for dislodging misconceptions and for arming students with the skills needed to defend scientific thinking. However, educators should be sensitive to the idea that some students hold onto ideas due to values and ideology, and science may not be the only factor in influencing people's opinions. Care should be taken to be considerate of students' personal values.
  • It is very important to guide students toward credible sources of information, especially at the high school level, otherwise students' Internet searches may unwittingly reinforce a misconception.
  • Guidelines for assessing what is "true" would be helpful, especially at the high school level.

About the Content

  • This activity gives students practice in an essential part of scientific thinking: using science to weigh in on a claim made in the media.
  • This activity is consistent with recommendations in the climate literature that students be taught media literacy skills, and scientists should engage more often in public discourse about climate change.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    This is a GREAT assignment for students to begin to understand how real-world research operates. As stated in the description of the assignment, it might be helpful to direct students to where they can gather their sources from.
    Scientific strengths:
    - lots of freedom for students to navigate their own research
    - data management skills required
    - researching for reliable information
    - experimental design (problem --> data --> conclusion)
    - real-world, concrete issues addressed
    - Requires learning of the scientific principles AND data behind hurricanes and sea ice

About the Pedagogy

  • This short activity presents students with an excerpt from a media source about a particular current event (i.e., global warming and Antarctic sea ice extent; global warming and Hurricane Sandy) related to climate change and asks them to answer to the question "Is This True?" with a documented and data-supported response.
  • Activity is flexible in that it can be applied to any issue and the degree of sophistication required can be tailored to fit a given classroom. The exact format is intentionally left flexible so that the idea can be adopted for current events and topics of the day.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Activity explains the underlying concept and gives two examples of how to use it. From there, educators can create their own versions of this activity.
Entered the Collection: April 2018 Last Reviewed: July 2016

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