Student-Accessible Modeling Tools for Inquiry-Based Learning in the Atmospheric Sciences
SERENA H. CHUNG (1), Kristen Howard (1), B. Thomas Jobson (1), Shane Brown (1), Timothy M. VanReken (1)
(1) Washington State University
Abstract Number: 272
Preference: Poster Presentation
Last modified: May 3, 2010
Working Group: Aerosol Physics
Students have long had difficulty grasping the intricacies of atmospheric aerosol physical and chemical processing due to the inherent complexity and non-linearity of these systems. Understanding the roles of condensation and coagulation on an evolving aerosol population is difficult without using detailed models, but such tools are not readily accessible to most undergraduates and beginning graduate students. Similar problems exist in air quality classes, where itís challenging to understand the relationships between NOx, VOCs, and ozone production without the use of a realistic chemical model. To address these problems and others like them, we have developed student-friendly user interfaces for research-grade atmospheric models. To use these modeling tools, students first access the interface via a web browser and input basic parameters. Once submitted, the model runs on a central server. Results are provided to the students in the form of basic plots as well as text that can be saved via the browser interface.
Along with the model tools, we have also developed inquiry-based learning modules to further improve student understanding. The inquiry-based approach encourages students to approach a problem in a manner that mimics the scientific method. With this approach, students are given the basic background material in lecture format, along with a tutorial in the model tools. They are then given an open-ended problem to address using the model. They are expected to establish a hypothesis for system behavior, plan an appropriate series of simulations to evaluate their hypothesis, and then analyze their results. Preliminary results, based on exam questions and student interviews, indicate that the combination of the student-friendly modeling tools and the inquiry-based learning approach have resulted in improved student conceptualizations of important atmospheric science topics.