Dr. Thomas Arnold, Biology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program

Sustainability Bridges: plug-in class exercises for the sciences

Tom Arnold, Associate Professor of Biology, used his participation in the 2013 Valley and Ridge project to develop an online teaching module to provide a basic foundation in climate change science for students in all four of his Sustainability Investigations (SINV) and Sustainability Connections (SCON) courses. These four courses – Biology 129 Changing Ocean Ecosystems, Biology 325 Plant Physiology, Biology/Chemistry 343 Metabolism, and Biology 401/Chemistry 490 Chemical Ecology – include lectures on the impacts of climate change, with related readings and discussions of the primary literature. They cover a variety of issues such as atmospheric chemistry, sea-surface warming, ocean acidification, carbon sequestration, and changes in organismal fitness and behavior due to climate shifts. They enroll students with a broad range of backgrounds, including students from six different division III majors as well as non-majors. To ensure that all students have a basic understanding of climate science, the ‘Climate Foundations’ online teaching was developed within the Moodle online course development program.

This program includes a test bank of 100 questions and 400 informative “CF tweets” related to four subcategories of modern climate science: (1) atmospheric changes, (2) land surface changes, (3) ocean changes, and (4) ecological impacts. The program was designed in conjunction with a National Science Foundation TUES grant for curriculum design, which supports the Biology 401/Chemistry 490 Chemical Ecology at Dickinson College. The Climate Foundations program is designed to quiz students about climate issues, while assuming no prior knowledge. During practice sessions both correct and incorrect answers are acknowledged and trigger “CF tweets” – short responses designed to teach climate basics. Students may practice these questions, alone or in combination with questions specific to each course – as often as they’d like. Later, questions from the “Climate Foundations” test bank are incorporated into online exams. The program is designed to work as a stand-alone teaching tool which can be incorporated into all four courses, ensuring that over 100 students per year have a basic “Climate Foundation” and can make interdisciplinary connections.