The unit that I'm teaching is called "Global Warming: How does it affect Hurricanes?" I chose this topic for two reasons; it fits in well with the 9th Grade Integrated Science curriculum that I teach and with the more recent release of Al Gore's documentary,
An Inconvenient Truth
, global warming is at the forefront of people's minds. I'm able to fit this in with the curriculum because the students are required to learn about global interdependence and the impacts of humans on their natural environment. As I mentioned above, the course that I teach integrates the topics of chemistry, physical, and earth sciences with a strong emphasis on connecting each topic with the next; at the beginning of the school year I teach the students about the basics of chemistry, which I connect to the atmosphere and greenhouse gases, because the atmosphere is a good place for students to apply their knowledge of atoms and molecules since there is a variety of elements making up the atmosphere. The chemical make-up of the atmosphere is what allows the earth's temperature to remain relatively constant and in a range that works for the organisms living on the planet. Global warming is a natural fit as we move on from the atmosphere and greenhouse gases. I use Al Gore's video as a way to understand the human role in global warming for the students and the reason why I chose to connect global warming to hurricanes is because in the video he mentions that one piece of evidence illustrating that global warming is really happening is that the numbers of category 4 and 5 hurricanes have been increasing over the past 30 years and he specifically states that they have doubled. However, Gore does not provide us with the Science behind this phenomenon. I want the students to investigate this statement and since one of our habits of mind is the question of evidence, how do we know what we know, it's important for the students to find out if the statement has any kind of validity and figure out how an increase in more intense storms could be considered evidence to global warming.
The Global Warming and Hurricanes unit will be about 6 weeks in length. It will be taught in three sections, a section on global warming, hurricanes, and finally a section that connects global warming to hurricanes. At the beginning of each section the students will explore the key vocabulary and we will develop questions that will help them to develop the necessary background information for understanding each topic. After learning about global warming and hurricanes, the end-of-unit assessment will have students debating the various issues that were addressed during the unit. They will use the questions from above and will form debate teams consisting of 3-4 students, depending upon the numbers of students in the class. The teams will spend time researching relevant information for both sides of the central debate question. It's essential that they research both sides of their issue because when the actual debate day comes they won't know until 1 minute before their debate, whether they will be debating for or against the issue. They will be following a very specific debate protocol that is taken from my former cooperating teacher, Julianne Mueller-Northcott at Souhegan High School, in Amherst, NH. In the research and preparation for the debate the students will have the opportunity to develop their own focus questions for the research, but they will also be provided with the (above) list of focus questions so that they will be able to gather all of the relevant information for preparing a well-informed debate. They will spend a few periods on the research and debate preparation in class, and will be provided timelines and guidelines so that their class time will be structured and used wisely. They will be assigned homework to prepare an outline of their debate showing who will be assigned which roles and the specific information that will be included in the debate. I will read through each group's outline and provide them with feedback on the information that they gathered. After the research and preparation we will go over the debate protocol as a class and then the student groups will practice debating with each other using this protocol. As they practice I will listen and watch so as to provide each group feedback on their debate technique. After their practice day, the students will come dressed professionally and will be ready to give either side of the debate. After the debates, the students will write a final reflection on what they learned throughout the unit and describe their own belief system on the topics of the debates and explain and provide evidence as to why they have the opinion that they have about the topic of global warming and hurricanes.
Section 1: Global Warming
The unit will begin with the students generating a KWL chart about Global Warming, ultimately leading to their own exploration of their questions about global warming, allowing them to gain a general understanding of what global warming is. The way the chart works, is the students will generate a list of things that they already know about global warming. I'll ask them to write down at least two things that they know about global warming. As students share their responses, I will record them on a large piece of paper that will be displayed for the duration of the unit. After the students write down what they know about global warming, they will then be asked to write down their questions that they have about global warming. These questions will also be recorded and will be displayed next to the chart of things they already know, and will be used to guide them through the learning process of understanding global warming. They will explore these questions using their Science text,
Foundations of Physical Science with Earth and Space Science
, and other articles about global warming. In addition to exploring their questions using the text, I will also provide information in the form of lectures on Global Warming, specifically related to what it is and what causes it, i.e. greenhouse gases, long term climate change, and glacial cycles. Please refer to the section below, entitle "Content Background Information" for the specific information that will be included in these lectures. The students will also look into how humans play a role in global warming, by watching the Al Gore documentary,
An Inconvenient Truth
. We will use this movie as a basis for discussion about what they learned about Global Warming. There are a few articles that they will also read in conjunction with this video as a follow up to the evidence that Al Gore provides about global warming, the articles are taken from the University of Colorado, Boulder and focus on the Arctic Sea Ice Shrinking and the Antarctic Ice Shelf collapse. They will take all of the information gathered and have a discussion about their understanding of Global Warming and human impacts. The discussion will have a general focus question: Have humans impacted global warming? Not only will they look at the human impact on global warming, but they will also look at long term climate change not created by humans. The discussion will also be completely student-centered using a discussion protocol, which holds all students accountable for participating in the discussion. Throughout all the reading and class work, students will have a long term homework assignment to keep a daily log of their personal energy usage, in essence monitoring their daily CO 2 output. During week one, the students will monitor their "normal" energy usage, and during week two they will do everything in their power to conserve as much energy as possible, and therefore monitor their "conserved" energy usage. They will need to collect information on all of the appliances that they use and keep track of the amount of time they use each appliance. In the end they will use an equation to calculate how much CO 2 they produced over the course of the two weeks and they will graph their results and see the difference between when they consciously make an effort to conserve energy and when they don't try to save energy. After the discussion and after fully monitoring their energy usage, students will finish filling out the "L" part of the KWL chart, and will then write a brief paper, answering the question "Have humans impacted global warming and what can we do to alleviate the problem? They will use points brought up from the discussion and from the multiple readings as evidence to support their ideas, they will also need to tie in what they learned from collecting the data on their own personal energy usage.
Section 2: Tropical Cyclones
The next part of the unit will be a short informative session, only a few class periods long on the Science of hurricanes. As with the global warming section, the students will also create a KWL chart for tropical cyclones, i.e. hurricanes. Their questions generated about hurricanes will also guide them through understanding how hurricanes work. I will be teaching the students about what hurricanes are, how they form, and what causes them. They'll watch a short video as an introduction to the topic of hurricanes and I will also prepare several lectures on hurricanes and provide notesheets for the students to use for taking notes on the lecture. The information for the lecture will be gathered from
, Patrick L. Abbott, 4th Edition, 2004, McGraw-Hill from Chapter 11 entitled Hurricanes and the Coastline.
Section 3: Relating Global Warming to Tropical Cyclones
The final part of the unit will be integrating the two topics of global warming and tropical cyclones. The students will explore the possibility of the intensity of hurricanes changing as a result of global warming. In the Scientific community there is disagreement over whether hurricanes are increasing in strength and numbers due to global warming. The students will read a number of different articles, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with varying arguments regarding hurricanes and global warming. The students will be provided a graphic organizer to help organize their thoughts and ideas as they read each of the articles. They will then use these articles and graphic organizers as a jumping off point for another student-centered discussion, following the same discussion protocol from the beginning of the unit. There will be one focus question for the discussion will focus on two questions: "Is an increasing number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes a result of global warming?" During this discussion students will take notes on each others comments, thoughts, and ideas.