Exploring Evidence, Models and Uncertainty Related to Questions Facing Scientists Today
High-Adventure Science brings several of the big unanswered questions in Earth and space science — think climate change, the availability of freshwater, land management and more — to middle and high school science classrooms.
Each module includes interactive computer-based systems models and real-world data on unanswered questions scientists are facing today. Students explore evidence and discuss the issues of certainty — and uncertainty — with the models and data.
These free online curriculum lessons were developed for five days of classroom instruction and include one or more Earth systems models plus assessment items.
High-Adventure Science: (NSF DRL-0929774, 9/15/09 – 8/31/12, PI: Pallant,
$695,075) The goal of High-Adventure Science is to bring the excitement of
frontier science into the classroom by allowing students to explore pressing
unanswered questions in Earth and Space Science that scientists around the
world are currently investigating. While we do not expect students will be able
to solve the problems posed in the curriculum, our goal is to have students
experience doing science the way scientists do. It is the approach that matters—
one based on thinking critically about evidence, making predictions, formulating
explanations, drawing conclusions, and qualifying the level of certainty of those
Primary Research Questions
How do students' scientific argumentation abilities change during and after the use of High-Adventure Science investigations?
How do students' content knowledge change during and after the use of High-Adventure Science investigations?
How do students' justifications and considerations of rebuttal change during and after High-Adventure Science investigations?
What types of uncertainty do students exhibit while working with complicated computational models and scientific data sets?
The High-Adventure Science Climate module has five activities. Explore the question, what will Earth's climate be in the future? Through a series of guided questions, you will explore interactions between factors that affect Earth's climate. Explore temperature data from ice cores, sediments, and satellites and greenhouse gas data from atmospheric measurements, run experiments with computational models, and hear from a climate scientist working to answer the same question. You will not be able to answer the question at the end of the module, but you will be able to explain how scientists can be certain that Earth is warming while not being entirely certain about how much Earth will warm.
The High-Adventure Science Water module has five activities. In this module you will consider the question: will there be enough fresh water? In this guided activity, you will explore the distribution and uses of fresh water on Earth. Explore models of porosity and permeability, run experiments with computational models, and hear from a hydrologist working on the same question. You will not be able to answer the module's framing question at the end of the module, but you will be able to explain how humans can preserve supplies of fresh water for the future.
Development of "Is there life in space?" Curriculum
In this investigation, students explore the question: Can there be life outside of
Earth? Students use planet-hunting models to discover how scientists find new
planets and perform simulated spectroscopic measurements to determine if the
chemical requirements for life are present.
High-Adventure Science: Earth's Systems and Sustainability Funded
High-Adventure Science: Earth's Systems and Sustainability (HAS:ESS):
(DRL-1220756. 10/1/12 – 1/31/16. PI: Pallant, Co-PIs: Lee and Norris). This
project will develop additional modules for middle and high school students
in Earth and Space Science classes. The goal of HAS:ESS is to research
the effectiveness of curriculum materials to reliably convey an understanding
of Earth's systems and the increasing role of human interaction with those
systems, while also introducing important science practices and crosscutting
concepts. The HAS:ESS project builds on the results of the High-Adventure
Science project. The Concord Consortium (CC), in partnership with the
University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) and the National Geographic Society,
is developing these modules, conducting the research and will be broadly
disseminating these materials via far-reaching education networks.
High-Adventure Science: Earth Science Assessments with Automated Feedback Funded
The Investigating How to Enhance Scientific Argumentation through Automated Feedback in the Context of Two High School Earth Science Curriculum Units proposal (NSF DRL-1418019 9/1/14-8/31/18 PI Liu, co-PIs Pallant and Lee) responds to the national need for technology-enhanced, formative science assessments that promote argumentation practice through inquiry-based science teaching and learning. Guided by comprehensive argumentation theories and drawing on advanced automated scoring technologies with proven validity, we will apply automated scoring tools to facilitate immediate feedback to formative, constructed-response assessment items. The feedback will provide both individual student and class-level information to help improve learning and teaching of argumentation for high school students and teachers.
Primary Research Questions
To what extent can automated scoring tools diagnose students’ explanations and uncertainty articulations as compared to human diagnosis?
How should feedback be designed and delivered to help students improve scientific argumentation?
How do teachers use and interact with class-level automated scores and feedback to support students' scientific argumentation with real-data and models?
How do students perceive their overall experience with the automated scores and immediate feedback?
The High-Adventure Science Air Quality module has five activities. Explore the question, will the air be clean enough to breathe? You will be guided through the analysis of models and real-world data as you explore the interactions of factors that affect a region's air quality. You will not be able to answer the module's framing question at the end of the module, but you will be able to predict the effect of human development on a region's air quality.
Development of "What are our choices for supplying energy for the future?" Curriculum
The High-Adventure Science Energy module has five activities. Explore the question, what are our energy choices? In this module, you will explore the advantages and disadvantages of different energy sources for generating electricity. A particular focus is given to natural gas extracted from shale formations through the hydraulic fracturing process. At the end of the module, you will be able to compare the relative costs and benefits (abundance, ecological impacts, etc.) of different sources used for generating electricity.
Development of "Can we feed the growing population?" Curriculum
Our agricultural system is made up of interconnected resources. The availability of these resources affects how much food we can produce.
In this module, you will explore the resources that make up our agricultural system in order to answer the question: can we feed the growing population? Food production is faced with an ever-growing number of challenges. Growing enough food depends on the availability of resources such as arable land, sunlight, rain, and organic matter.
Throughout this activity, you will explore land uses and soil quality through graphs of land use and crop production. You will run experiments with computational models to compare the effect of different management strategies on the land. You will not be able to answer the module's framing question at the end of the module, but you will be able to describe how humans can maintain and replenish important resources to be able to produce food long into the future.
Making and defending claims are the hallmarks of critical thinking and scientific
argumentation skills, but our curriculum doesn't stop there. To examine how
students' critical thinking skills change whey they make claims based on
evidence, we developed new explanation certainty item sets. These item sets
consist of four separated questions that require students to:
make scientific claims (claim)
explain their claims based on evidence (explanation)
express their level of certainty (certainty)
describe the source(s) of their certainty (certainty rationale)
Nine teachers from MA and NY pilot-tested the High-Adventure Science climate,
space, and water investigations. The pilot-test teachers were asked to give a
pre-test and nature of science survey at the beginning of the year, test one or
two of the investigations, including separate pre- and post-tests for each of the
To evaluate students' process skills, we developed a theoretical construct that
enabled us to focus on two important aspects of the nature of science:
1) explanations, and 2) explanation in the context of scientific argumentation.
In the second part of the explanation certainty item set, students explain their
claims. Students' explanation of their claims are scored against item-specific
rubrics. A generic rubric is shown below.
Irrelevant (Score 0)
Did not write anything, wrote unrelated text
No link (Score 1)
Elicited non-normative ideas or restated the question
Partial link (Score 2)
Elicited one or more normative ideas
Full link (Score 3)
Used two ideas that are meaningfully connected
Complex link (Score 4)
Used three or more normative ideas that are meaningfully connected
In the fourth part of the explanation-certainty item set, students explain their
rationale for choosing a particular certainty rating. Students certainty rationales
are scored with a rubric that groups student explanations into personal and
Description of categories
No Information (Score 0)
No response, simple off-task responses, restatement
Did not respond, wrote "I don't know" or similar answers, provided off-task answers, restated scientific claim or certainty rating
Personal (Score 1)
Question, general knowledge/ability, lack of specific knowledge/ability, difficulty with data, authority
Did/did not understand the question, did/did not possess general knowledge/ability necessary to answer the question, did/did not learn the topic, can/cannot explain/estimate, did not know specific scientific knowledge, did not make sense of data provided in item, mentioned teacher, textbook, or other sources
Scientific-Within Investigation (Score 2)
Specific knowledge, data
Referred to/elaborated a particular piece of scientific knowledge directly related to the item, referred to a particular piece of scientific data provided in the item
Scientific-Beyond Investigation (Score 3)
Data/investigation, phenomenon, current science
Recognized the limitation of data in the item, mentioned that not all factors are considered, elaborated why the scientific phenomenon addressed in the item is uncertain, mentioned that current scientific knowledge or data collection tools are limited
Twelve field-test teachers were asked to administer a pretest, with questions
covering content related to all three investigations, and a nature of science
survey at the beginning of the year, two or three of the investigations, with
separate pre-and post-tests for each investigation, and an end-of-the-year post-
test (with the same questions as the beginning-of-the-year pre-test). Teachers
from Nevada, Indiana, Montana, New Jersey, Wisconsin, North Carolina,
Michigan, Massachusetts, and New York participated in the field-testing.
Students were tested with pre/posttests consisting of multiple items followed
by constructed response explanation items. Students showed significant pre/
post score gains on all three curricular modules, with the effect size being
0.52 standard deviation (SD) for the climate change module, 0.69 SD for the
freshwater availability module, and 0.71 SD for the life in space module.
We studied scaffolding features for argumentation items and for systems thinking. Design studies focused on:
Exploring the benefits of argumentation scaffolds focused on claim, justification, and certainty considerations on student learning.
Investigating systems thinking and systems dynamics scaffolds for understanding complex Earth systems and Earth system models.
Developing systems dynamics construct.
Five teachers implemented climate and water modules. Different versions were created and randomly assigned to classes. Teachers implemented pre- and post-tests as well as completed demographic surveys.
According to literature, systems thinking is a multi-faceted construct involving system structure, interactions within a systems, and dynamics of the whole system. In HAS: ESS modules, we focus on "systems dynamics" where a complex system is taken as a whole and emphasize concepts such as (1) time delay (the lag between the initiation of a control action and its effect), (2) non-linear causality (cause-and-effect chains and loops in which causes are not necessarily proportional to their effects), and (3) stocks and flows (how the quantity in a stock varies over time given the rates of flow into and out of the system). We are currently investigating a systems dynamics construct for the Land and the Air modules.
Fifteen teachers attended our online professional development seminars and twelve piloted modules in their classroom. Two were middle school teachers and 10 taught high school. The schools were located in MA, PA, NC, OH, KY, IL, IN, MI, MN, MT, and AZ.
Twelve teachers attended an in-person professional development workshop. Each were asked to administer a pretest at the beginning of the school year, and several modules, each with separate pre-and post-tests. Teachers from MT, IN, NC, NY, KY, MN.
The Concord Consortium is proud to partner with these organizations for the High-Adventure Science project.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-0929774 and DRL-1220756. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Revolutionary digital learning for science, math and engineering
High-Adventure Science is a project of the Concord Consortium — a nonprofit educational research and development organization based in Concord, Massachusetts. Our pioneering work brings the promise of technology into reality for STEM education.