Rocky Mountain Section - 64th Annual Meeting (9–11 May 2012)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


STRONG, Mel, Earth & Planetary Science/Natural Science Program, Univ of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131,

Undergraduate pre-service K-5 or K-8 teachers at the University of New Mexico have been observed to lack skills in the areas of data literacy, graph construction, interpretation of plots, and number sense. To improve their familiarity, skill level, and comfort with data and graphing, several meteorological and climatological datasets have been introduced in an Environmental Science class that caters to elementary education majors. These datasets and accompanying activities are intended to illustrate fundamental concepts in meteorology, climate, and environmental science through locally obtained data. For example, when learning about the atmosphere, the students construct hand-drawn plots of atmospheric sounding data from weather balloons launched from Albuquerque. This activity helps students visualize concepts such as lapse rate, atmospheric layers, the tropopause, inversions, and relative heights of features in the atmosphere. When learning about humidity, the students plot time series of dew point from the Albuquerque airport during monsoon onset. When learning about water issues in the southwest, students create precipitation histograms from 'climate norm' data from cities across the country, then assemble their plots spatially on a map of the US to compare the climatology of the Southwestern US to the rest of the nation. When learning about climate change and drought in New Mexico, students use climate division data to generate time series graphs illustrating the historic irregularity of precipitation in the region. The pre-service teachers find these activities challenging on several levels, including on a most basic level of mechanical graph construction. It has been discovered that a significant percentage of students have difficulty setting up axes, working with scales, and even plotting points on a grid system by hand. Although the exact reasons for these deficiencies are not clear, without these skills it is difficult to imagine them teaching graphing skills to K-5 students in the future.