Reflecting upon my understanding of our data, methods, results, and conclusions shows me that, as I have admitted before, I have come a long way in terms of understanding and appreciating the carbon cycle (and global warming). I must say though, I never understood any specific thing instantly, for the most part. What I mean is that as we learned about the carbon cycle, I had to go over it a few times before I could pass the exam we took at the starting of the semester. When we learned how to format our presentations, I had to take time and practice so that I could effectively teach it to a teenage audience. When we learned about the statistics portion, it had been forever since I had used Excel, so it was refreshing to see that I could get back into it again. The poster method of teaching certainly seems like an effective way of showing all of the necessary information–I think ours turned out well because we managed to make it less and less wordy. This made it less intimidating to read, and easier to understand in general. The scientific and presenting skills I improved over the course of the semester will be beneficial to me in the future!
After the first time I did my presentation to my fellow students and the instructors, I knew that I had potential, but that I had to practice it and be more comfortable with the material. It was a rather long presentation, after all, so it was easy to forget things, or go too fast. I think my actual presentation went well, because the kids stayed engaged for the most part, especially the experimental portion. I could improve upon certain speaking skills though…sometimes I feel like I try to fit too much information into a sentence at once. The hardest part about teaching was to make sure I didn’t bore the audience, and to present i n a way that they could understand the fundamentals of what I was teaching. The presentation from the School of Education was a help…I especially liked the part when we watched the video of Harvard grads who couldn’t explain how an acorn grows. It just goes to show that this basic, fundamental information needs to be presented better. The module I was most comfortable was the second module, with the experimentation. It was very hands-on, and I enjoyed being able to go out to the school’s mesocosm. I felt like it was the least “wordy” of the presentations, to a degree.
In learning the information, I went over the slides as well as looked up simple descriptions of the carbon cycle on google. I also typed prompts underneath the slides in powerpoint, so I could read what I was going to say while I studied the slides themselves. I would look at the slides and try to teach it to myself in my head. The least effective method of studying the information was to try and study from my assessment. Even though I did well on them, they were not really effective tools to help me word my presentation…I needed to see the slides themselves. It was one thing to do good on assessment myself, it was another to teach it in an effective manner to high school students. The “Instructor PowerPoint” was a good source to study from, being that it set the standard for all of us to teach by. I felt that the way the info was presented was already adequate, I have no complaints about the instruction. The instructors always asked if we needed something clarified, or offered for us to come visit them in their office. As far as this goes, I think there is no improvement needed.
I enjoyed the class overall, mostly because of the positive learning environment. It felt like it was a Capstone Course, and it was nice that we, as students, had to take ownership over all the information we were learning. I have talked to many other students about their Capstone lectures/ labs, and none of them seemed to think too much of them–more of a “check in the box.” I think students who don’t take a course like this are missing out. My only wish was that we had been able to present the information at the Rice Center, but that was of course not VCU’s fault. I just really liked that place when we went, and enjoyed going through the vernal pool. Being that we only got three sessions with the high schoolers, I can’t really suggest anything further we could have taught them (we really had to make sure we could squeeze what we could into the time we did have!). As an undergrad, I felt we were taught an appropriate amount of info, and expected to research further when writing these blogs. The only thing I would change is that I wished we could meet more than just Monday and Friday…they seemed very far apart.
I will take this information with me into the future, being that I am looking to become a high school biology teacher. Perhaps one day the Carbon Capstone class will teach my class! I feel that I will being able to incorporate the keys aspects of info that we learned, especially the info that is not historically taught (or taught well) in biology classes. I know that Ms. Sherwood (the teacher of the class I taught) headed an environmental club or something, and I would like to do that as well, wherever I work. That would be a way to get kids interested in the field of biology, and give them extra information. As far as the politics of global warming go, I feel that I am equipped to explain to nay-sayers that it is, in fact, a real thing. The problem is, most of those people are not concerned with facts…I’ve tried to explain the carbon cycle to them before, and of course, they don’t get it or just “still don’t believe.” We need to teach people this information at a younger age it seems, before politics get into their head.
The class that had some similarities to what we learned was Ecology. In fact, after taking this course, I have a renewed interest in field work, so I am planning on taking ecology lab. I really enjoyed going tot he Rice Center, being outdoors, and taking readings. It really puts you into the experiment, rather than just reading a textbook. I feel like a lot of the terminology in ecology was useful to know for this course, as well as how inland waters worked. The blog was an interesting way to communicate outside of class, and it was cool to see what my classmates came up with on their blogs. It was useful to go over the speaker we had recently heard, or to have to go look for scholarly articles that expanded upon the information we were learning/ teaching. I tried to make my blog helpful and worth reading. I did like the instructor blog also, as there were some good readings posted on it. The topics were an appropriate extension of our classwork.
This course did change my perspective on carbon, because I had never had a reason to really learn the carbon cycle well, and to reflect upon its importance. I feel that I have learned useful information, information and experience that I would be less equipped to teach if I did not acquire. I am sure that is why the School of Education wanted me to take this course before I applied to them for a Master’s program. This course also made me realize the severity of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, something that is beyond most people in the United States. I have tried to do what I can, riding my bike instead of driving, and making sure I recycle when there is a bin available.
I think the take away from learning how to teach this information was to make sure the fundamentals were understood…and to make it relevant to the students. Global warming is not something that exists outside their life, and it’s not something that affects nothing. I felt it wa important to really push the fact that even small changes in the temperature can negatively affect many aspects of the world, from seashells underwater, to humans. I think it is an uphill battle, especially with the sheer amount of attitudes and beliefs. For example, while some will say that global warming has directly influenced the amount of hurricanes that have been happen, others will disagree. Kevin Trenberth’s research, from a science journal I found online, asserted that anthropogenic changes in environments haven’t been able to be statistically proven to increase the amount of hurricanes and rainfalls yet, but do create an environment for more intense ones when they do come (Trenberth 1754). This was a good example of something that “nay-sayers” would take advantage of, for political reasons. “See? He said you can’t statistically prove it yet! You liberals are part of a hoax!” There may be newer research that has been better able to show the dangers of global warming, with newer data – I hope!
Watch, in pain, as FOX ‘News” tries to use a snow storm as evidence that global warming doesn’t exist. You probably won’t get through more than a minute without a headache, you’ve been warned!
Trenberth, K.. “CLIMATE: Uncertainty In Hurricanes And Global Warming.” Science 308.5729 (2005): 1753-1754. Print.