Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Promoting interdisciplinarity through climate change education

Abstract

Climate change is a complex scientific and social problem. Effectively dealing with it presents an immense challenge, yet educating students about it offers educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fruitful opportunities for promoting interdisciplinarity, retaining talented young people in STEM fields and enhancing multiple literacies of all students. We offer three illustrative examples of interdisciplinary climate change-related STEM education projects. Each of these models is designed deliberately for implementation in the first two years of collegiate-level STEM courses; thus, they may be employed in both four- and two-year institutions. The scientific community can use climate change education opportunities to help further transform STEM education in the US and increase production of high-quality STEM graduates.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    US National Research Council Advancing the Science of Climate Change (National Academies, 2010).

  2. 2

    Marquart-Pyatt, S. et al. Understanding public opinion on climate change: A call for research. Environment 53, 38–42 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    McCright, A. M. & Dunlap, R. E. The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public's views of global warming, 2001–2010. Sociol. Quart. 52, 155–194 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Reynolds, T. W., Bostrom, A., Read, D. & Morgan, M. G. Now what do people know about global climate change: Survey studies of educated laypeople. Risk Anal. 30, 1520–1538 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Hartley, L. M., Wilke, B. J., Schramm, J. W., D'Avanzo, C. & Anderson, C. W. College students' understanding of the carbon cycle: Contrasting principle-based and informal reasoning. BioScience 61, 65–75 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Sterman, J. D. Risk communication on climate: Mental models and mass balance. Science 322, 532–533 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    US National Research Council Taking Science to School (National Academies, 2007).

  8. 8

    US National Research Council Climate Change Education (National Academies, 2011).

  9. 9

    Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (AAMC, 2009).

  10. 10

    US National Research Council BIO2010 (National Academies, 2003).

  11. 11

    US National Research Council. Rising Above the Gathering Storm (National Academies, 2007).

  12. 12

    Quantitative Reasoning for College Graduates (Mathematics Association of America, 1998).

  13. 13

    Speth, E. B. et al. 1, 2, 3, 4: Infusing quantitative literacy into introductory biology. CBE Life Sci. Educ. 9, 323–332 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    American Association for the Advancement of Science Science for All Americans (Oxford Univ. Press, 1989).

  15. 15

    US National Research Council National Science Education Standards (National Academies, 1996).

  16. 16

    Climate Literacy (US Global Change Research Program, 2009).

  17. 17

    Arum, R. & Roksam, J. Academically Adrift (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    A Test of Leadership (US Department of Education, 2006).

  19. 19

    Klein, J. T. Creating Interdisciplinary Campus Cultures (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    DeZure, D. in Encyclopedia of Education (ed. Guthrie, J. W.) 509–524 (Macmillan Reference USA, 2003).

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Alper, J. The pipeline is leaking women all the way along. Science 260, 409–411 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Miller, P. H., Blessing, J. & Schwartz, S. Gender difference in high-school students' views about science. Int. J. Sci. Educ. 28, 363–381 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Jonassen, D. H. Learning to Solve Problems (Routledge, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    King, P. M. & Kitchener, K. S. Developing Reflective Judgment (Jossey-Bass, 1994).

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Handelsman, J., Miller, S. & Pfund, C. Scientific Teaching (Freeman, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    National Science Board Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators (National Science Foundation, 2010).

  27. 27

    Derting, T. L. & Ebert-May, D. Learner-centered inquiry in undergraduate biology: Positive relationships with long-term student achievement. CBE Life Sci. Educ. 9, 462–472 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Henderson, C. & Dancy, M. H. Barriers to the use of research-based instructional strategies: The influence of both individual and situational characteristics. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 3, 2, 1–14 (2007).

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Duch, B. J., Groh, S. E. & Allen, D. E. The Power of Problem-Based Learning; A Practical “How To” for Teaching Undergraduate Courses in Any Discipline (Stylus, 2001).

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L. & Cocking, R. R. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (National Academies, 2000).

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Herreid, C. F. Why isn't cooperative learning used to teach science? Bioscience 48, 553–559 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Froyd, J. E. White Paper on Promising Practices in Undergraduate STEM Education (National Academies Board on Science Education, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T. & Smith, K. A. Cooperative Learning: Increasing College Faculty Instructional Productivity ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 4 (George Washington Univ., 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Hake, R. R. Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. Am. J. Phys. 66, 64–74 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Oliver-Hoyo, M. T. & Allen, D. Attitudinal effects of a student-centered active learning environment. J. Chem. Educ. 82, 944–949 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Oliver-Hoyo, M. T., Allen, D., Hunt, W. F., Hutson, J. & Pitts, A. Effect of an active learning environment: Teaching innovations at a research I institution. J. Chem. Educ. 81, 441–448 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37

    Zacharia, Z. Beliefs, attitudes, and intentions of science teachers regarding the educational use of computer simulations and inquiry-based experiments in physics. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 40, 792–823 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    AAU Announces Major Initiative To Improve Undergraduate STEM Education (AAU, 2011); available via http://go.nature.com/nijKYZ.

  39. 39

    Schmidt, H. G. Problem-based learning: An introduction. Instr. Sci. 22, 247–250 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40

    Anthony, S., Ferrett, T. & Bender, J. What Should We Do about Global Warming? (W. W. Norton and Company, 2003).

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41

    Chin, C. & Chia, L. G. Problem-based learning: Using students' questions to drive knowledge construction. Sci. Educ. 88, 707–727 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42

    Raine, D. & Symons, S. (eds) PossiBiLities: A Practice Guide to Problem-Based Learning in Physics and Astronomy (The Higher Education Academy Physical Sciences Centre, 2005).

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43

    Zitarelli, D. E. The origin and early impact of the Moore Method. Am. Math. Mon. 111, 465–486 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44

    Holman, J. & Pilling, G. Thermodynamics in context: A case study of contextualized teaching for undergraduates. J. Chem. Educ. 81, 373–375 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45

    Ramsden, J. M. How does a context-based learning approach influence understanding of key chemical ideas at 16+? Int. J. Sci. Educ. 19, 697–710 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46

    Gürses, A., Acikyildiz, M., Dogar, C. & Sözbilir, M. An investigation into the effectiveness of problem-based learning in a physical chemistry laboratory course. Res. Sci. Technol. Educ. 25, 99–113 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47

    Barker, V. & Millar, R. Students' reasoning about basic chemical thermodynamics and chemical bonding: What changes occur during a context-based post-16 secondary course? Int. J. Sci. Educ. 22, 1171–1200 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48

    Vaino, K., Holbrook, J. & Rannikmäe, M. Stimulating students' intrinsic motivation for learning chemistry through the use of context-based learning modules. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 13, 410–419 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49

    NASA Innovations in Climate Education For Educators; available at https://nice.larc.nasa.gov/node/52

  50. 50

    US National Science Foundation Climate Change Education Partnership Program Is Launched; available via http://go.nature.com/lkC2uN

  51. 51

    NOAA Climate Program Office Education; available at http://www.cpo.noaa.gov/education/index.html

  52. 52

    Weber, E. & Stern, P. Public understanding of climate change in the United States. Am. Psychol. 66, 315–328 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 53

    President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Engage to Excel (Office of Science and Technology Policy, 2012).

  54. 54

    Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy Beyond Bias and Barriers (National Academies, 2007).

  55. 55

    Uriarte, M., Ewing, H. A., Eviner, V. T. & Weathers, K. C. Constructing a broader and more inclusive value system in science. BioScience 57, 71–78 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. 56

    Luckie, D. B., Maleszewski, J. J., Loznak, S. D. & Krha, M. Infusion of collaborative inquiry throughout a biology curriculum increases student learning: A four-year study of 'teams and streams'. Adv. Physiol. Educ. 28, 199–209 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. 57

    IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

  58. 58

    Revkin, A. C. Politics reasserts itself in the debate over climate change and its hazards. New York Times (5 August 2003); available via http://go.nature.com/BmMwEF

    Google Scholar 

  59. 59

    Soon, W. & Baliunas, S. Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years. Clim. Res. 23, 89–110 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. 60

    Climatologists under pressure. Nature 462, 545 (2009).

  61. 61

    Mann, M. E. The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (Columbia Univ. Press, 2012).

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors extend special thanks to Tom Dietz for encouraging work on this piece.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

A.M.M. wrote the first draft of the manuscript. A.M.M., B.W.O., R.D.S., G.R.U. and A.Z. wrote and revised parts of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Aaron M. McCright.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

McCright, A., O'Shea, B., Sweeder, R. et al. Promoting interdisciplinarity through climate change education. Nature Clim Change 3, 713–716 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1844

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing