There is increasing concern that global-scale environmental changes, including alterations in climate, land productivity, oceans and other water resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems, may alter the capacity of the Earth to sustain life. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC, 2008a, 2008b) issued a consensus concerning the reality of anthropogenic factors affecting and accelerating climate change. Now that a scientific basis for global warming has been sufficiently established, there is a growing need for meaningful planning of appropriate policy responses to address it. Global change has the potential for major impacts on the international economy, future development, sustainability of societies, and the global standard of living. Hence it is not only of scientific interest, but also of growing concern to the public, media, as well as to local, federal, and international governments. The increasing global concern underscores the importance of scientific literacy at all levels of education (Kolstø, 2000 Holbrook and Rannikmae, 2007; Lederman, 2008).
It is essential that the curriculum in K-12 schools incorporates and addresses the threat of global change so that students are educated and prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. An educated public can then become “good citizens’ who are in a position to make informed and more accurate decisions about scientific issues (Kolstø, 2000, Sjoberg, 1997, Wilson and Henson, 1993). From the perspective of education and research, the study of global change presents a rich domain of inquiry, exploration, and discovery at all grade levels (AAAS, 1993, 1989). There is an urgent need to engage students in multidisciplinary global change studies integrating natural and social sciences, as well as statistics and engineering, to foster a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of global change on planet Earth. This is the main motivation of our proposal called Global Change Initiative – Education and Research (GLACIER). Scientists at Boston University (BU) are engaged in various aspects of global change research and modeling, using geospatial technologies such as remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to observe and analyze both physical and anthropogenic processes and consequences at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. More specifically, they have been engaged in measuring, mapping, and archiving data for global change research and assessment; evaluating options for responding to the effects of global change on biodiversity and ecosystem management; and developing coupled climate system models to evaluate climate variability and change on regional to global spatial scales and seasonal to century-long time scales.
Global change research has been enhanced through the incorporation of technology-based methodologies. Specifically, the explosion in the use of various geospatial technologies has generated a growing set of interesting and useful data for planet Earth that can be garnered for global change research. These technologies enable students to understand and analyze global change and encourage participatory decision-making on mitigation strategies. Technology is already an integral part of many K-12 classrooms, and popular free applications such as Google Earth (http://www.earth.google.com) and Arc Explorer 900 (http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/explorer/index.html) can be used in any classrooms with an Internet connection. Using these programs, students would be able to map changes in local vegetation or discuss the impact of carbon emissions across the US over a given time period. Teachers GLACIER GK-12 Fellows 3 have reported successful outcomes using mapping technology in grades as low as five (Huckle and Sterling, 1996; Maeroff et al., 2001). GLACIER will train teachers how to use these technologies in their classrooms and STEM fellows will assist with their implementation.