Undergraduate Education about Water and Climate Change: Students’ Use of a Water Balance Model

By Diane Lally, Trenton E. Franz and Cory T. Forbes

Students need to possess accurate conceptions of both Earth’s climate and water systems due to the ramifications of climate change. Using computer-based simulation models gives students practice making and testing hypotheses and conveying comprehension. Gaps exist in the availability of climate change courses and opportunities to use computer-based model both at the introductory level. This case study presents the use of a computer-based model over three iterations of an introductory water course. Data came from student assignments and interviews (n=129). Results of quantitative and qualitative data analyses show that students, regardless of gender, year in school, or major, can effectively apply the Water Balance Model (WBM) to the investigation of climate and groundwater variables. In concert with a flipped course format, students gain experience using the WBM to make decisions surrounding humans, climate, and water to explore the interconnectivity of systems.

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