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Well developed scientific models that reside in the public domain, such as EdGCM, have many unique and desirable characteristics for education and outreach. Such models serve as a basis for educating "a new generation" of climate scientists, and eliminate barriers that currently make modeling a highly specialized discipline. What is more, we have targeted resources on the production of a multi-level user interface intended for a broad audience including students and the general public. This effort is called ISIS, see the Software page. The simplified interface allows users to quickly explore many socially engaged ice-sheet modeling scenarios such as doubling CO2, sea level contributions, and ice shelf disintegration. The user also has the ability to formulate novel experiments, upload to and download from a database of modeling scenarios creating a larger community of users. Along with this effort, we developed inquiry based curriculum using the model. Hence, the model itself, combined with a specific educational plan, make the broader impacts of this research significant.

Education Plan for Public Dissemination

The focus of the educational effort will be to develop curriculum and informational products for dissemination in order to take polar science directly into the classroom. The team will develop learning units based on instructional models such as the learning cycle lesson design and the 5-E model. The team will assist in the designing, developing, and implementing a problem-based learning curriculum for the appropriate grade levels. The purpose will be to provide curriculum assistance in order to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts associated with Problem-Based Learning (PBL) within a polar science topic that is appropriate for the student learning. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is an inquiry-based approach that can be defined as both a curriculum and a process. The curriculum consists of carefully selected and designed problems to engage the learner in content and process knowledge, to develop proficiency in problem solving, and to participate in collaborative teams. PBL approaches give students the ability to retain content knowledge though critical thinking by working through problems logically and making connections to the real world.

In PK-12 education, it is important that students encounter curriculum that reflects real life situations, especially in the areas of science, mathematics and technology [1]. Studies have shown that students who are involved in PBL acquire knowledge and become proficient in problem solving. [2] Furthermore, students who engage in PBL often perform as well as their counterparts from traditional classrooms on national exams, with the added benefit of working through problems logically and making connections to the real world. In The Process of Education, Jerome Bruner writes;

Students should know what it feels like to be completely absorbed in a problem. They seldom experience this feeling in school? [3]

It is of vital concern to provide curriculum in PK-12 education that positively impacts critical thinking skills.

How can teachers and the students they serve become more informed citizens regarding real world issues? A national report found that U.S. education had a "splintered vision": standards in science and mathematics education are not only unfocused, but aimed at the lowest common denominator [4]. Compared to teachers in 50 other countries, U.S. teachers are expected to address a wide range of subjects, yet they seldom have the time to teach them in depth. As a result, students often take a piecemeal approach to learning and view content information as the boring memorization of facts that are seemingly irrelevant to their everyday lives.

Meaning is a human construction with a social situation and PBL allows for learners to define meanings within the context of action and reflection. Yet, educators must beware of regarding the learner's point of view as fully complete and significant in and of itself. [5]. Each learner understands content and concepts differently based on his or her previous experiences. The students need opportunities to address misconceptions and to develop concepts in real world situations. Students come to school with their own ideas, some correct and some not, about almost every topic they are likely to encounter [6].

Problem-Based Learning takes a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates effective teaching and learning practices with computer technology. This curriculum integration process engages students in collaborative research that can be shared in the classroom, across a community or around the globe. PBL features open-ended and cooperative activities that deal with real world issues and scenarios. For PK-12 education, the use of Problem-Based Learning provides a real world focus that can be used effectively to strengthen critical thinking and problem solving skills.


  1. Bentley, 1995
  2. Robertson, 2000
  3. Bruner, 1962
  4. TIMSS, 1996
  5. Dewey, 1970
  6. Rutherford and Algren, 1990

Materials Demo