The learning scenario was implemented remote learning in a 9th grade (14-15 years old) physics class (first year of upper secondary school in Italian system). Lessons were carried out on Gsuite for Education, while we also used other online tools, such as Google Earth, Google Maps.
The Learning scenario starts with an experiment to observe how the water level in a glass is affected by melting ice. I have decided to add another experiment, I asked students to melt the ice outside the glass, for example by placing cubes in a funnel. Students were surprised about experiment results, and how melting ice consequences were so different depending on initial conditions.
I introduced the general framework of the topic showing a video about climate change. After a brief debate, students worked on a concept map summarizing the environmental factors and consequences of global warming. We discussed their opinion about the video, and they learned, simply by induction, that sea-level rise is caused primarily by the terrestrial glaciers.
I asked students to carry on some additional activities about coastal cities that will be underwater in the next decade. Using Google maps students had to identify vulnerable and resilient cities by looking at elevation data. In addition, I asked students to look for in Europeana about flooding episodes, with the intention of making them aware of global warming effects. Europeana allows students to carry out historical research and realize that flooding is a recurrent topic.
I introduced students to ‘Fermi-like’ problem presented in the learning scenario, these are not usual ‘scholastic’ problems, but questions that could be solved in everyday situations from inputs that are not completely known, and solved by estimation procedures with results defined only by the order of magnitude. Students initially appeared disorientated, but then, they accepted the challenge and enjoyed creating other original Fermi-style problems in groups.
Feelings and aims
At the end of the teaching module, the students have:
- successfully increased their learning of scientific tools;
- stimulated their curiosity and prepared the ground for investigation;
- tested and improved their critical thinking through analysis, synthesis, and questioning;
- efficiently worked in groups to solve a common problem and to effectively present their work to other students.
Solving a problem apparently without any starting data is challenging and it stimulates both critical and creative thinking. Thinking of a global issue in a simplified framework that can be easily reproduced at home allowed students to realize that they can investigate the world with their own limited tools. To do that, the student learns how to formulate hypotheses, approximate and model a problem, identify and find the data needed. Those are all essential skills for a responsible citizen.
The topic of global warming was very actual and interesting to my students. They realized that citizens of the future must be aware of the risks that humanity is facing as consequences of collective policies and everyday individual behavior.
Overall, the learning objectives were achieved. In particular, Europeana has allowed the development of transversal skills such as analysis, problem-solving, design skills, teamwork, and interest in STEM.
Online teaching was not a problem, also due to the possibility of preparing in advance the experimental setting. However, at the beginning, some students might appear confused by the new approach. In that case, it was fundamental to stress the idea that a “scientific” approach allows you to solve apparently unsolvable questions, once you find the appropriate modelling of the problem.
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