Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:35 AM
INTEGRATING CLIMATE CHANGE FOR ELEMENTARY PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS: TALES FROM THE FIELD
In order to meet current standards of accountability, novice teachers must have a solid understanding of more than one STEM discipline, integrate science and non-science topics, and employ cutting edge use of pedagogy. In 2008, the state of Michigan began requiring all pre-service elementary teachers to complete a two-course sequence focused on Earth science, life science, chemistry, and physics. In response, Grand Valley State University combined Earth and life science content for these students, resulting in a one-semester, inquiry-based integrated science course with an interdisciplinary focus on global climate change. Current research and the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change volumes helped to guide the Earth science content, focused on the physical basis. Key Earth science concepts include natural and anthropogenic influences of climate change and the evidence and impacts of climate change. Key life science concepts include biomes, biodiversity, evolution, ecosystems, and phenology. We also explicitly teach nature of science and science process skills throughout the course. While our students leave the course understanding more about global climate change and science in general than the average U.S. citizen, several challenges remain: (1) some students dislike switching between two professors throughout the semester; (2) some students experience a “substitute” teacher phenomena; (3) logistical difficulties result from working with up to five instructors each semester; (4) faculty work as if there is a new preparation for this course each semester, although this issue has been improving; and (5) students resist quantitative elements of science. Despite these barriers, we believe that the course has important strengths including its integration of topics, focus on inquiry, explicit teaching of nature of science, and collaboration between science departments. Our experience, and data collected, suggests that our approach could be used as a model for institutions interested in applying a collaborative, team-teaching, and integrated approach to science course development for pre-service elementary teachers.