TAMPA — High school students studying marine biology in Hillsborough County will soon get a chance to learn about the complex science behind global climate change through a new program that employs video game simulations and hands-on activities.
The Climate Change Narrative Game Education Project, funded by a $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, will be launched in marine biology classes at four Hillsborough high schools in fall 2014. The following year, it will expand to all 27 high schools.
University of South Florida geology and education faculty members are developing the curriculum, which is targeted to the West Central Florida region and includes an eBook novel and computer games that simulate the long-term effects of climate change.
The project also aims to advance global climate change education by reaching minority and low-income students, who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math.
Larry Plank, the school district’s director of K-12 STEM education, said marine biology is the most popular elective among high-schoolers. About 3,000 students each year take the course.
“We felt there was a need to do more in the high school space and really incorporate more climate education into what the kids are doing in science,” Plank said. “It is an opportunity not only for us to learn the best ways to teach (climate change), but an opportunity as a district to take a hard look at gaming and simulations in science and other disciplines.”
The development of the Hillsborough program is timely – a panel of the world’s top climate scientists last month found that it is highly likely human influence is the main cause of global warming.
“What this project will allow us to do is teach climate change science to students from an effective way and also ascertain what kids know and break down some of the misconceptions they have,” Plank said.