Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Seeking advice on showing "An Inconvenient Truth"

Next week in my Core Science lab we will be watching "An Inconvenient Truth". Core Science is the general science requirement for all non-science majors here at RWU and there are 15 sections of the lab. Lab is a "common experience" for all Core students so the curriculum is already planned out. However there is no real curriculum for this "lab" period other that to show the movie. Obviously, there has to be more to it than this. I'm going to poke around the educational resources over at ClimateCrisis.net and plan on attempting to generate some discussion both before and after the movie, particularly about the science-opinion-fact-politics-business-media quagmire.

I'd like the students to see that there is a litany of scientific data about global climate change; that certain trends are evident despite the natural variation inherent in any complex system; that all the science, taken together, point to a particular conclusion. I'd like to have my students attempt to see past the politics as best they can and see the science. I'd like for them to begin to understand that the scientific data is not a matter of opinion, but that how we respond to this data is (e.g. the fact that it is 85 degrees outside isn't debatable, but whether it is better to stay inside with your air conditioner or go to the beach is). I'd like for my students to understand that they shouldn't throw out the facts because they don't like the message (or the messenger!).

I don't know if resistance is going to be an issue this semester (it was last semester), but I've already heard one of my students refer to "An Inconvenient Truth" as "that Democrat movie" and I'd like to be as prepared as I can be going in. So, if anyone out there has any experience with showing this movie, especially to non-science majors, I would welcome any advice. I'd also appreciate being directed to any good resources on using AIT as a teaching tool or to any sites that discuss some of the common misconceptions/issues in the global warming "debate".


UPDATE: well, the showing of AIT went by without much of a hitch. I gave the students a series of questions to answer so they could stay focused on the movie. These questions were all based on the various observations and scientific evidence presented in the movie. Not too much discussion afterward - which isn't too surprising (they just wanted to get out of there) - though a few students commented on the significance of the amount and variety of evidence portrayed. One student thought the movie was too political, (which I agree with - why show all the footage of the 2004 election?) but also thought that the movie helped clarify much of the science behind the issue.

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