The Midwest is in a deep freeze; is climate change the culprit?

I had a hunch.  When Al Roker said think of the polar vortex like a hurricane, I thought the extreme weather that the Midwest is currently having must be linked to climate change.  I’m not an expert in the field, but I’ve spent years teaching about the topic because it’s one of the most challenging issues facing our time.  Gifted students find climate change  engaging because of its relevance, complexity, and novelty–a great opportunity to come up with innovative solutions.  And it’s interdisciplinary—chock filled with science, math, language arts, and global, social issues.

After doing a little research, I found that there is some evidence to indicate that global warming or climate change has contributed to the “deadly” polar vortex.  Here’s one of the links I viewed: According to Dr. Jennifer Francis, a scientist at Rutgers University, the warmer weather in the Arctic (caused by melting ice floes) is driving changes in the jet stream.  What kind of changes?  That’s for your students to find out: how can “global warming or climate change” be hot and cold at the same time?  Are their patterns?  What are the implications?

I’ve talked about the format for problem-based learning earlier, but just as a reminder, the following is essential:

  • A loosely defined problem—how can climate change drive rising temperatures and falling temperatures?  Key vocabulary:  polar vortex,  arctic oscillation, jet stream, troposphere, and stratosphere.
  • Teacher/facilitator
  • Student cohort
  • Analysis/Inquiry
  • Research tools, including consulting some experts
  • An action plan

Noted expert in gifted education, Dr. Joyce VanTassel Baska, highlights the benefits gained from solving “community” based problems, adding that this approach provides an appropriate way to ‘teach’ sophisticated content and high-level process…all while building self efficacy, confidence, and autonomous learner behaviors.”

Climate change is a problem our students are going to inherit.  Let them sink their teeth into the issue now.   It’s meaty.  It’s relevant.  There are great opportunities for research.  And we need more education on the issue as well as an action plan.  Makes for very meaningful instruction!

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