Unit 4: Considering the Influence of Light and Thermal Phenomena on Global Climate

I. Introduction

The theme for this course is: What happens when light from the Sun shines on the Earth? In this unit, you will be exploring the effect of light from the Sun on the Earth’s atmosphere, land, and oceans. In particular, you will be developing additional central ideas about light and thermal phenomena as well as considering ways that energy from the Sun enters and leaves the Earth. While exploring these phenomena, you will be:

  • identifying resources such as what you already know about aspects relevant to global climate change

  • developing additional central ideas based on evidence about models of light and thermal phenomena

  • explaining intriguing phenomena such as the greenhouse effect and rising sea levels

  • developing mathematical representations of changing quantities such as the rate of change in the mass of melting glaciers

  • using mathematical representations to estimate a quantity of interest such as predictions about the likelihood of flooding at particular locations and

  • making connections to educational policy, such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013), the science standards adopted by many US departments of education.

This unit continues your exploration of learning processes as well as of physical phenomena.  The main sections present questions with suggestions for exploring topics and for writing reflections about your findings. Text in gray font indicates that these are suggestions; you may think of other ways to explore the topic. Asking your own questions as well as those posed here will enhance learning both about physics and about learning. Check with your instructor if you choose to devise an alternative approach.

 Small groups will be exploring various phenomena in class. Keeping track of what one is doing and thinking is important. In this course, use a template for a physics notebook page on which to record your notes during class. The physics notebook page can help you remember your thoughts before, during, and after an exploration. An experienced elementary teacher, Adam Devittt, designed this notebook page to mirror the structure of before, during, and after reading strategies:

Before starting your exploration, think about and discuss with your group members what you know already about this topic, how you plan to conduct the exploration, and what you think you might find out.

During your exploration, record what is happening, what you are observing, and what you are thinking about what you are observing. Include sketches of equipment and observations. Note any words that are new and their definitions.

After your exploration, record any central ideas that have emerged from your observations and discussions. Also note the evidence on which you have based these ideas. State explicitly how the evidence is relevant and supports the claims you are making in stating these ideas. Also explain why this result is important. Then write a reflection about whatever you want to remember about this experience. In addition, briefly state what you are still wondering in this context.

In summarizing and reflecting upon your explorations, you also will be integrating science and literacy learning. This includes learning to speak clearly, listen closely, write coherently, read with comprehension, and create and critique media.

After writing your own summary of your findings, read some examples of student work. The student authors first wrote drafts, received feedback for ways to enhance content and clarity, and submitted these final versions. Also read about some nuances to consider when explaining the phenomena explored. You should read both of these sections of the text to be sure you have understood both the physics and the learning processes involved.

Also available are students’ reflections about teaching a friend or family member about what they have just learned in class. Some additional sections present historical information about ways knowledge about the topic developed. In addition, some reflect upon relevant aspects of the nature of science in the context of the topic explored. Read these sections to broaden your understanding of science and of science learning and teaching.

License

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Exploring Physical Phenomena by Emily Van Zee & Elizabeth Gire is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.