Teaching Science

The Game of Floods

The "Game of Floods" was developed by the County of Marin as a public education activity on sea level rise adaptation, including traditional flood protection measures such as levees and seawalls; green infrastructure approaches including horizontal levees, wetland restorations, and beach nourishment; and policy/zoning changes. The Game of Floods is a small group activity, with 4-6 participants tasked with developing a vision for ‘Marin Island 2050,’ a hypothetical landscape that highlights the conditions that will be experienced in Marin in coming years with sea level rise and increased storm impacts causing the loss or deterioration of homes, community facilities, roads, agricultural land, beaches, wetlands, lagoons, and other resources.

To start the game, participants are given a lesson with an adaptation strategy reference sheet, including the effectiveness, environmental impacts/benefits, and cost estimates. Integral to the activity is the introduction and consideration of green infrastructure as an alternative to traditional levees and sea walls, with habitat and water quality benefits of such concepts articulated. Seated around the game board, participants take turns championing assets they value and proposing strategies to protect these sites from sea level rise and storm impacts. The game creates a lively interaction between participants, heightening awareness of the challenges of planning for sea level rise. The game concludes with group discussion to obtain consensus for a vision which protects critical assets, while maximizing ecosystems benefits through wetland restoration and other living shoreline approaches.

I haven't had a chance to try this yet, so I'm not certain how well it would work in the classroom. The website mentions it has been used in high schools, so I imagine it won’t need many tweaks to fit it into a lesson on adaptation.

Canada’s Changing Climate Report

Canadians are experiencing the costs of climate-related extremes first hand, from devastating wildfires and flooding to heatwaves and droughts. As the planet warms, extreme weather events will become increasingly common. The knowledge provided by our scientists has helped us understand that climate change is real and driven by human activity. The Government of Canada will continue to work with Canadian scientists, by listening to their expertise and evidence-based advice to help us continue to take ambitious action to reduce emissions and fight climate change.

Just released,
Canada’s Changing Climate Report provides the first in-depth, stand-alone assessment of how and why Canada’s climate has changed, and what changes are projected for the future. Undertaken by some of Canada’s finest scientists, this report provides an independent analysis and evaluation of the scientific confidence based on the scientists’ expert judgement. The assessment was led by Environment and Climate Change Canada, with contributions from Fisheries and Ocean Canada, Natural Resources Canada and university experts.

The assessment confirms that Canada’s climate has warmed in response to global emissions of carbon dioxide from human activity. The effects of widespread warming are already evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the near future. A warmer climate will affect the frequency and intensity of forest fires, the extent and duration of snow and ice cover, precipitation, permafrost temperatures, and other extremes of weather and climate, as well as freshwater availability, rising of sea level, and other properties of the oceans surrounding Canada.

This is the first report completed as part of the
National Assessment Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action, led by Natural Resources Canada. It provides the climate science foundation for the forthcoming reports by addressing the impacts of climate change on our communities, environment, and economy, as well as how we are adapting to reduce risk.

This report may be a bit of a stretch for our students. On the other hand, they probably know more about the climate than most adults (having just studied it) and the language isn't much harder than a senior textbook. The information is fresh — and certainly relevant to them.

Linked in the grade 10 climate unit.

Discovery: Donna Strickland and extremely powerful lasers

Discovery is a BBC Radio 4 programme that explores today's most significant scientific discoveries and talks to the scientists behind them.

Donna Strickland tells Jim Al-Khalili why she wanted to work with lasers and what it feels like to be the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Physics in 55 years. When the first laser was built in 1960, it was an invention looking for an application. Science fiction found uses for these phenomenally powerful beams of light long before real world applications were developed. Think Star Wars light sabres and people being sliced in half. Today lasers are used for everything from hair removal to state of the art weapons. Working with her supervisor Gerard Mourou in the 1980s, the Canadian physicist, Donna Strickland found a way to make laser pulses that were thousands of times more powerful than anything that had been made before. These rapid bursts of intense light energy have revolutionised laser eye surgery and, it's hoped, could open the doors to an exciting range of new applications from pushing old satellites out of earth's orbit to treatments for deep brain tumours.

Linked in the grade 12 physics light unit.

Apollo

Now you can experience the challenge and excitement of flying an Apollo Lunar Mission with APOLLO: The Game of Our First Voyages to the Moon. A collaborative STEM board game for 1-4 players ages 13 and up, APOLLO puts players in the Spacecraft and Mission Control, responsible for critical decisions and maneuvers throughout the spaceflight to the Moon.

The players become the Apollo Mission Commander, the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP), the Command Module Pilot (CMP) and Mission Control Houston. Each position has critical roles to play in the outcome of the mission - but if you don't have 4 people to play the game, don't worry - you can easily combine the roles or even play by yourself!

Based upon extensive research of public NASA documents, photographs, and mission reports.

After mastering the basic Lunar Landing Mission, players can fly all of the Historic Apollo Lunar Missions, with more challenging mission goals in order to obtain scientific samples and data.

Also included are the cancelled Apollo 18-19 missions and a dedicated Apollo 13 "Houston, we have a problem scenario".

Or pick your favorite Astronauts of the era and create your own Apollo Mission crew — The "what if" possibilities are endless!!!

I haven’t tried this in the classroom myself, as I haven’t taught grade 9 science since I bought it, but it’s a fun game. The play is simple and a four person game takes about half an hour. There is a classroom set available.

The biggest downside is the flight plan's extensive use of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). It fits the period, and as the designer is a retired Naval Flight Officer I doubt he notices them, but for classroom use I think a glossary will be required.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

Storm World

A decade old now, this book by Chris Mooney is a decent introduction to hurricanes, the politics of (American) weather prediction, and the link between global climate change and hurricanes.

From the Kirkus review:

In his preface, Mooney states that global warming did not directly cause Katrina, or any other hurricane. He devotes the rest of the book to explaining why and how climate change intensifies and increases storms. No fan of the Bush Administration, the author also reveals the ways in which political interests keep crucial data from reaching public attention or, failing that, work to make sure it is skewed and/or misconstrued. He humanizes scientific disputes, and he takes care to draw vivid portraits of the scientists spearheading debate. One camp, “the empiricists,” led by famed hurricane forecaster William Gray, denies that hurricane fluctuations are anything but natural and periodic. The second group, which Mooney dubs “the modelers,” uses computer forecasting techniques to show that as the earth’s temperature increases, so does storm frequency and intensity. Into nitty-gritty details of the science behind these arguments, the author weaves tales of political intrigue and media hype. For example, although the climatologists portrayed in the book disagree primarily about global warming’s effects on hurricanes, the media twists their disputes into clashes over whether global warming exists at all, or is human-influenced. Unsurprisingly, hurricane wars have recently become highly politicized.

Science has moved on (and politics changed a bit) since this book was written, but it's still relevant today — and well worth the time spent reading it.

Linked in the grade 10 climate unit.