Climate Change as an Integrating Context for Learning

Meghan E. Marrero, Bradford T. Davey, Hilarie B. Davis, Glen S. Schuster


As the effects of global climate change are being observed but not yet fully understood, how can we bestteach our K-12 students to examine and respond to this planet-sized problem? This research reportdescribes evaluation results from the National Science Foundation- sponsored SPRINTT [Student PolarResearch with National [and International] Teacher Training project, administered by U.S. SatelliteLaboratory, Inc. In SPRINTT, students study standards-based science concepts in the context of Earth’sPolar Regions and conduct their own research projects in which they analyze authentic data, collected byboth western and indigenous scientists, and present their findings in the form of an online research paper.A random sample of research papers from more than 1000 students was analyzed using the program rubricto examine students’ understanding of science concepts (e.g., adaptations of organisms, weather andclimate); demonstration of process skills (e.g., citing evidence, drawing conclusions); and makingconnections to indigenous scientific knowledge and Native peoples of the Arctic. Students at the upperelementary, middle, and high school levels illustrated strong evidence of understandings of polar conceptsand science process skills. These understandings and skills may help students as they become voters anddecision-makers faced with socioscientific issues such as climate change.

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