UC Museum of Paleontology team develops global change curriculum

Betsy Mitchell/Courtesy
Online teaching modules, developed by a team from the UC Museum of Paleontology, were developed to help educators cover various topics surrounding environmental, health and climate topics through a global lens. The modules also aim inform students about potential solutions to address complex global issues.

Related Posts

A team from the UC Museum of Paleontology spent five years developing a series of K-12 teaching modules that were recently made available online to help students understand climate change through a global lens.

Understanding Global Change, or UGC, developed by Jessica Bean and Charles Marshall, provides interactive teaching modules that can be integrated into school curricula. Bean, a principal investigator and author for the UGC project, said in an email that the materials provided cover a wide breadth of topics surrounding environmental, health and climate issues to inform students about potential solutions to complex global problems.

The UGC developers partnered with the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network, or CLEAN, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s, or HHMI’s, BioInteractive, a virtual hub of science learning resources, to provide a wide variety of both online and in-person resources to support learning, according to Bean.

“The components of our framework are used to construct explanatory models about Earth system phenomena either using physical materials (cards, paper, pens) or an online conceptual modeling tool we developed with HHMI BioInteractive,” Bean said in the email. “These Earth system models help students visualize and understand the phenomenon under investigation.”

Anne Gold, CLEAN project investigator, said UGC has created a unique way to pool together resources into organized modules, creating a variety of toolkits to help guide educators through tough topics.

Gold emphasized that UGC also shows educators how they can fit environmental topics into their current standards.

“One of the powers of the UGC is it is very modular,” Gold said. “Teachers like to have ownership over their work; having flexibility allows curriculum like this to be modified to their own teaching.”

Clarissa Toupin, an educator and senior fellow at the Knowles Teacher Initiative, said students tend to see things in “black and white,” making it difficult to teach them about the complexities surrounding difficult global issues.

Toupin added that the UGC model is “wonderful” in that the resources it provides allows students to not only comprehend but visualize global changes.

According to Toupin, she and Bean led a student trip to Alaska in 2017, where they tested UGC modules with students. As they monitored learning progress, they noticed that students were comprehending more complex ideas around global change, Toupin said.

As an integrative science teacher, Toupin teaches an accelerated course curriculum that packs three years’ worth of physics, chemistry and biology into one year of teaching. Through UGC, Toupin added, she has been able to create units that can tie the subjects together, including a fossil fuels unit that covered everything from organic chemistry and transfers of energy to the pollution and damage fossil fuels can cause.

“In order to understand how to address these problems like climate change, we have to understand what scientific consensus means,” Toupin said. “It’s not just enough to understand that change is happening. You have to understand that measuring changes leads to learning how to solve these problems.”

Contact Matt Brown at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @maattttbrown .