Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

The AMS DataStreme Earth's Climate System Teacher Professional Development Course: Results from a Three-Year Study

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

The AMS DataStreme Earth's Climate System Teacher Professional Development Course: Results from a Three-Year Study

Article excerpt


In response to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) and subsequent findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) saw an immediate need to substantively increase the understanding of climate and global change issues (climate literacy) among in-service K-12 teachers and prepare them to share this knowledge with their students and teaching colleagues. At that time, instrument-derived observations from around the world showed that global mean air and ocean temperatures had been trending upward for more than a century, with those trends very likely to continue well into the future. Furthermore, IPCC AR4 presented unequivocal evidence that human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, were responsible for most of this warming by enhancing Earth's natural greenhouse effect (IPCC, 2007). These statements were confirmed and expanded on in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5; Stocker et al., 2013) and Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment (Walsh et al., 2014).

To help address the need for K-12 climate education and subject matter literacy, AMS developed and pilot tested the DataStreme Earth's Climate System (DataStreme ECS) graduate-level, professional development (PD) course for inservice precollege teachers. The course was offered to a limited number of teachers in fall 2011, and then its full, grant-supported national implementation period spanned six semesters (spring 2011-fall 2013), the timeframe of this study. As detailed in the Acknowledgments section, the course was supported through two NASA grants (2008- 2013) and one NSF grant (2010-2012). The AMS Education Program in Washington, DC, developed and trained a network of 25 Local Implementation Teams (LITs) across the United States that recruited and administered the semesterlong course to 1,027 teachers during the study period. Teacher participants constructed a Plan of Action (this can be found online at for educational peer training and adapted what they learned into their school curriculum. Upon course completion, eligible teachers received three tuition-free graduate credits in Earth Sciences through The College at Brockport: State University of New York (SUNY Brockport).

The principal innovation of DataStreme ECS is the Earth-system based examination of climate science focused on real world and current climate data and investigations. DataStreme ECS incorporates an expanded meaning of climate to describe the state of the system as a whole. Earth's climate system, composed of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, and biosphere, results from internal and external influences, mutual interactions, and feedbacks. Climate is fundamentally the journey of the Sun's energy received on Earth as it is deflected, stored, transformed, put to work, and, eventually, emitted back to space. Earth's climate system establishes the environmental conditions and sets the boundaries of weather that determine where life can exist.

While focusing on scientific data using the most up-todate climate reports, data sources, and educational websites, DataStreme ECS also addresses social, ecological, and economic impacts. Teachers completing the course gain the climate science content and literacy skills needed to engage other educators and inspire their students through up-to-date discussions of Earth's changing climate. This paper details the DataStreme ECS model and its grounding in current literature about best practices in teacher PD. The authors describe the method of course evaluation during the six-semester study period, a sustainability plan for impacting future educators with the advent of the Next Generation Science Standards implementation, lessons learned from the study, and how the course can serve as a model.


Need for Climate Science Education

Mounting observational evidence over the past several decades has led the international scientific community to near unanimous consensus that the climate is changing on a global scale with potentially far-reaching and serious consequences for society and Earth's ecosystems. …

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