Sunday, September 22, 2013

Climate Change Workshop, part 7.

The global climate change workshop for teachers in Oklahoma and Texas, sponsored by Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE) and the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, continues. This time our topic was global warming education. On the second half of the Sunday morning session, our first speaker was Bob Melton, who works on science curriculum for the Putnam City public schools in Oklahoma. He is also a national officer in the National Association of Biology Teachers.

Bob began by explaining that teaching about climate change is a political act. Apparently his experiences have been different from those of the participants, which I reported yesterday: some parents have actually told Bob that teaching about global warming undermines students' faith in God. And of course there are also the infamous statements by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who considers global warming science to be a deliberate hoax perpetrated by scientists. We watched a television interview of Inhofe in which he said this very thing. This interview made quite a number of us a little upset as we watched it. Scientists such as Lara Souza and myself know certainly that we are not hoax perpetrators, and we feel personally libeled by Inhofe. Bob also showed us a video of some federal politicians who are willing to investigate UFOs but will not even consider global warming.

Then Bob showed us the Next Generation Science Standards, which will soon be the national standards for science education, except in states like Oklahoma and Texas that declare that the laws of nature are different in our states than in the rest of the world. In Texas, carbon dioxide does not absorb long-wave radiation. In Oklahoma, global warming cannot happen; we just ain't-a-gonna permit it. But most states will probably accept the new standards. These standards say little directly and openly about global warming, but all the major components of global warming science are integrated into it, including the expectation that students will get to participate in scientific inquiry about climate processes. Each state makes its own decision; and all politics are local; therefore if a majority of citizens in a state believe that global warming is equivalent to atheism, global warming will not be taught. Bob's energetic presentation got all of us educators excited to continue our work.

Danny Mattox, a middle school educator, introduced the teachers to a hands-on classroom activity to simulate the effects of sea level rise. The participants used trays, modeling clay, and rocks to create continents. Danny poured in colored water to create "oceans" and poured "snow" (sodium polyacrylate) on the continents. When the participants sprayed some of the water from the oceans onto the continents, gooey "glaciers" formed, and the sea level (visible against the side of the tray) fell. This is a student-friendly demonstration that glaciation causes sea levels to fall. Then participants scooped out the glaciers and dropped them into the oceans, which caused the sea levels to rise.

Then Danny explained how different proxies, such as carbon and oxygen isotopes, can be used to reconstruct past climate. Then he provided evidence, from his own research, that the Trail of Tears (in particular, the Choctaw Removal) occurred during an El Nino event, which caused a very cold winter and contributed to the massive deaths of Natives--weather making an already cruel act perpetrated by the U.S. government even worse. I encouraged him to continue and publish this research.

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