Global Warming

Sharon Anthony and Sonja Wiedenhaupt, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington

A 2003 SENCER Model

Global Warming is part of a first-year learning community at The Evergreen State College. It was organized around the following questions: Is it really getting hotter? How do we make sense of what different people are saying about global warming? Do we need to do something about it? And if we do, how could we better use what we know about climate change to impact people’s behavior?

The course is designed for a class of thirty-five and is team taught by a chemist and a social psychologist and takes both a scientific and psychological approach to answering the above questions. It explores the energy producing strategies that scientists believe contribute most to climate change and presents the basic chemistry and mathematics needed to understand those processes, including unit conversions, VSEPR theory and Lewis structures, an introductory understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum, balancing equations, and stoichiometry. It also looks as the non-scientific aspects of global warming, such as the public policy that has evolved around global warming, and the types of images and information about climate change that are presented in the public domain, including advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles.

Pedagogical strategies used in the course include exploratory writing assignments, experiential learning (through field trips to a wind-farm, a dam on the Columbia River, and a coal mine), collaborative research projects, and oral presentations. The culminating project is the creation of a campaign that reflects the students’ conclusions about global warming, based on their research, and that aims to convince the public to take appropriate action. The goal of the project is to integrate the science of global warming with the psychology of influence and students evaluate the effectiveness of each other’s campaigns. Students are required to submit a reflective portfolio at the conclusion of the semester that documents and explains advances in their learning as a result of the course.

Course Learning Goals for Instructors and Students

Teaching and Learning Goals

  • This course has several learning goals for students:
  • Working collaboratively
  • Communicating clearly through writing and speaking
  • Critical and integrative thinking as demonstrated through written work and discussions.
  • Understanding of topics in introductory chemistry including unit conversions, VSEPR theory and Lewis structures, an introductory understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum, balancing equations, and stoichiometry.
  • Understanding of topics in introductory social psychology including judgment and decision making, influence, and methods of persuasion.

Why is this course a SENCER model?

What are the capacious civic questions or problems addressed in the course?

This course was organized around the following questions: Is it really getting hotter? How do we make sense of what different people are
saying about global warming? What should we do about it? If we need to do something about it, how could we better use what we know about climate change to impact people’s behavior?

Through this program, we analyzed and interpreted data to see what all the commotion is about. We learned what factors scientists believe are responsible for climate change. For example, we used chemistry to both understand how greenhouse gases influence the climate and to examine what our personal contributions are to the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations. We also examined the issue from a psychological perspective. We looked closely at the types of images and information about climate change that are presented in the public domain, such as advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles. We learned about tools of persuasion in order to develop some theories about the psychological factors that make climate change such a contested issue. Finally, students worked in teams to decide what we should do about climate change and then used the psychological tools of influence to design effective and persuasive strategies for informing the public.

What basic science is covered and how is it linked to public policy questions?

By investigating global climate change, students learned both some introductory chemistry and some introductory psychology. In chemistry we focused on unit conversions, VSEPR theory and Lewis structures, an introductory understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum, balancing equations, and stoichiometry. The following chart shows the connections made by the course.

Climate Change: Is it really getting hotter? How do we know?
Analyze temperature records;
Read reports and scientific analyses.
Analyze types of images and information about climate change that are presented in the public domain, such as advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles (Tools of Influence). Analyze the make up of climate change research bodies;
Examine funding sources for climate change research;
Review history of climate change policies.
What contributes to climate change?
Greenhouse effect (Lewis structures, VSEPR theory, infrared absorption);
Calculations of magnitude of personal contributions to greenhouse gases (balancing equations & stoichiometry);
Graphical analysis of greenhouse gas concentrations.
Re-analyze media for accuracy using scientific understanding of climate change;
Examine what “facts” are accurate, over-emphasized or misleadingly presented by the media;
Examine how people interpret and respond to information (heuristics, logical reasoning, errors, etc).
Begin to examine the degree to which existing policies address what is known about climate change.
What should we do about Climate Change?
Examine the results of scientific models of climate change mitigation strategies;
Apply the psychological tools of influence to design effective and persuasive strategies for accurately informing the public about climate change.
International climate treaties (e.g. Kyoto protocol);
National greenhouse gas emission policies (e.g. Bush’s Clear Skies Initiatives);
Students come to a personal decision about what should be done about climate change;
Students design an informational and persuasive presentation for a public audience.

The Course

A major priority in the design of this course is the engagement of students as scientists and citizens. This is accomplished through the variety of techniques described below.

Global Warming Syllabus

Download (PDF, 215KB)

Understanding Context

Primer on Global Warming, Chemistry

To begin our investigation, we will explore theories addressing the following questions:

  • What do we need to know about global warming?
  • What is a green house gas?
  • What determines whether a gas is a green house gas?
  • How much are green house gas concentrations changing?
  • Why are they changing?
  • What are our personal contributions to greenhouse gas emissions?
  • Are human activities responsible for changes in green house concentrations?

Primer on Psychology of Influence and of Judgment & Decision Making

We will also examine the debate itself from a psychological perspective, looking specifically at how bias, tools of persuasion and logical errors in judgment and decision making influence us both as investigators and as consumers of research. As part of this work, we will look closely at the types of images and information about global warming that are presented in the public domain, such as advertisements, newspaper or magazine articles. We will apply what we are learning and reading about the tools of persuasion and errors in thinking to come up with some theories about the psychological factors that make global warming such a contested issue.

Evaluating Learning


Global Warming Campaign, Presentation , and Paper
Guiding Question: What should we do about global warming?

What do we need to know about global warming?
As a class we will brainstorm topics that would help us address the above question. Then you will break into pairs and research one of those topics with the goal of sharing your findings with the class. NOTE: Do a thorough job with your research because your colleagues will be relying on the information you present to help inform their decision on what to do about global warming.

Oral presentations of research findings in Week 5

  • Your group will give an informative and well-practiced presentation.
  • The presentation should rely on the oral presentation strategies that you learned
  • about last quarter.
  • Your group will bring a list of relevant facts on your topic that would be most useful to your colleagues for their paper.
  • Your group will also bring an extensive annotated bibliography of the relevant sources. (Be sure to cite your sources using APA citation format!)

Thesis paper for Week 6

  • For this 4-5 page paper you will reach an informed decision on what we should do about global warming. This decision will require studying the information presented in class as well as doing supplemental research.
  • Be sure to cite a wide variety of resources to help support your decision and to include a bibliography in APA format.
  • You will use the seminar preparation discussions on Tuesday afternoon of week 5 & 6 to first explore ideas together, share exploratory writing and then conduct a peer review of the thesis paper.
  • You will hand in the exploratory writing in response to this question on Wednesday, May 1st and the final draft of the thesis paper that emerges out of your exploration on Wednesday, May 8th.


Seminar Paper Assignment

This quarter to help you develop both your critical thinking and your writing skills we will continue to ask you to write thesis driven seminar papers. However, we want to challenge you to do some exploration of the ideas you encounter in the workshops, readings and lectures before you land on a thesis that you want to argue. To support you with this exploration, we have modified the weekly seminar paper assignment as follows:

  • Weekly Exploratory Writing – Each week you will produce a piece of exploratory writing. This writing can be similar to the first quarter´s seminar paper where you identify interesting themes and questions that emerged in your reading of the texts. Please, remember to
    reference quotes and ideas. Use the format of (author, page #). For example, ¨Thereby the market system becomes an immense force for the accumulation of capital, mainly in the form of machinery and equipment (Heilbroner, 31).¨ Note: this is not APA format, but it including the page number will enable your readers to turn directly to the source.
  • Bi-Weekly Thesis Based Writing – In weeks 2, 4, & 6 you will write a 2 page thesis-based essay. You should use your exploratory writing to identify a thesis to pursue. Like last quarter, these are essays that should meet the following criteria:
    Working with writing tutors: Each student is expected to meet weekly with the writing tutor. It will be your responsibility to come prepared to each weekÃÉ¢ÃÉÃëÃÉ´s session:
    In the first week of the two-week writing cycle, being prepared will mean something different for each person. Some people will share their exploratory writing as a way to identify different possible theses. Other people will have quickly landed on a thesis and will want to work on exploring possible evidence for supporting their thesis.
    In the second week of the two-week writing cycle, i.e. the week your thesis paper is due, you will bring a typed draft of your paper to the writing center to review. Again, you will all be working on different issues in your writing. It will be important to the productiveness of these sessions that you are clear about what you want or need to work on. The final draft of the thesis paper which you will hand in after seminar on Wednesdays should include the two drafts of exploratory writing you conducted, and the draft of the thesis paper you worked on with the writing tutor. We will not accept papers that do not include these drafts.NOTE: For those of you who are new to the program and to thesis based writing, we will expect you to work closely with the writing center to develop your understanding of this form of essay.


End-Of-Quarter Reflective Portfolio

Your job in the reflective portfolio is do the following four things:

  • Compile all of the work you did this quarter (this will not be a hard task if you have been keeping it in one central location all quarter). This work should include:
    1 – Global warming workshops such as the two on IPCC & Skeptical environmentalist
    2 – Chemistry Worksheets & Workbooks
    3 – Exploratory papers, thesis papers and drafts with any comments on those papers by faculty or writing tutors
    4 – Notes from presentations
    5 – Global warming campaign feedback (including your evaluation of your own work!)
    6 – Any other materials that you believe will help us understand your work and development over the quarter
  • Decide on an effective way to organize your portfolio so that it communicates your learning. (Include a table of contents to help communicate the structure of your portfolio.) You could organize it chronologically, by ideas, by subject area. You decide. Feel invited to be creative. Above all remember that the portfolio is what you are using to communicate the story of your learning. A randomly amassed collection of papers tells a story but perhaps not the one that, if you gave your self the time, you would choose to tell. Think about the types of tools that might help you tell this story (e.g. section headings; etc.).
  • Go through all of the work you have done this quarter and select:
    1 – Three pieces of work that most clearly demonstrate your growth as a learner this quarter
    2 – One (or two) pieces from the beginning of your year at Evergreen that helps demonstrate what your growth as a learner has been about
    this year. (If this is your first quarter at Evergreen, you don’t have to add this piece).Write two pages about these four selections that discuss why they are important and what they show about your growth as a learner over the course of the quarter and the year. You may use anything from reflections, workshop notes, seminar papers, excerpts from your project, or drafts of your papers as the material you discuss. These pieces need not be your best or most polished work, but should illustrate critical pieces of learning or turning points in your understanding. Your essay can point to intellectual development, to new ways of thinking, to new ways of organizing your experience, or to new questions you have, among other things.The four selections you make to illustrate your learning and the essay on those pieces should be clearly marked and put together in the first part of your portfolio for the quarter.
  • In addition to these pieces, please include:1 – Draft of self-evaluation.
    2 – A copy of your academic plan. This document should include:
    a – A description of your learning goals – (What do you hope to
    accomplish while at college? What skills and strengths do you
    want to develop? What kinds of experiences do you want to have?
    Who do you want to be when you grow up?)
    b – Your plans for next year? (What program or courses are you planning on doing?)
    c – Your plans for the types of programs you planning on doing in the following years?
    d – A reflection on how your plans for programs help you to accomplish your learning goals?All of these items should be placed in a 3-ring binder, with the sections of your portfolio clearly marked. Write your name and phone number clearly on the cover.


Campaign on Global WarmingThe culminating project on global warming will be the creation of a campaign that urges the public to come to the same conclusion that you came to based on your research. One of the purposes of this project is to integrate the science of global warming with the psychology of influence. You can work either individually or in pairs. The key thing is to apply what you have learned in the last 6 weeks to your campaign piece.

The campaigns will go public on Tuesday May 14th. You will all analyze each
othersÃÉ¢ÃÉÃëÃÉ´ campaigns for (i) how you were personally impacted by your colleagues
work, (ii) the scientific evidence used; and (iii) the psychological tools of
influence employed.

Things to Consider:

  • What is the message you want to communicate?
  • Who do you want your audience to be?
  • What is the medium that you will be working with?
  • What scientific data will you apply?
  • What tools of influence will you employ?

Here are some possible scenarios:

  • A letter to your senator
  • A letter to the editor of the Olympian (or your home newspaper)
  • An advertisement for the Cooper Point Journal
  • An oral segment for KAOS, the local radio station
  • A song for a camp group, school, or pop culture
  • A Power-Point Presentation for a school
  • A commercial for television (video)

Background and Context

Global Warming, A course The Evergreen State College, Lab I, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia, WA 98505.
Sharon Anthony, Email:, Phone: (360)867-6654 and
Sonja Wiedenhaupt, Email:, Phone: (360)867-6354

Course History

Course Management

We had approximately 35 students in the class and did not have any TAs. Both faculty were in the classroom during all class times. Usually only one of them was actively involved in presenting, while other was a model learner. Sharon Anthony took the lead in preparing and presenting chemistry lessons while Sonja Wiedenhaupt was responsible for the psychology presentations. There were several activities that were neither chemistry nor psychology focused, but were directly related to climate change. We designed and presented these activities together. The 35 students were together most of the time, but were divided into two groups, each with one faculty member, for seminar discussions. We took a 3-day field trip to Eastern Washington to visit a wind farm, a large dam on the Columbia River, and a coal-mine. Since it the course took place late in the spring, we were able to camp out in a group site at a state park. The field trip was not absolutely essential, but was definitely a highlight for our students. Faculty teaching a similar course in a different part of the country could take field trips focusing on different energy sources.

The majority of the chemistry materials used in the course were adapted from the ChemConnections chemistry module What Should We Do About Global Warming? By Anthony, Brauch, and Longley, Wiley, 1998, ISBN 0-471-32638-0. ChemConnectons consists of a group of chemistry professors from liberal arts colleges, research universities and community colleges who designed a curriculum to invoke an active, thematic approach to chemical education. Approximately 15 modules on current environmental, biomedical and technological topics have been developed for the first two years of the college curriculum. These modules can be easily adapted to use in introductory level chemistry classes and in interdisciplinary learning communities such as this one. More information on ChemConnections modules is given at their website.

Related Resources

Below you will find related news articles, bibliographies, web sites and SENCER documents related to the Power of Water

SENCER Resources

Below are resources from SENCER documents and publications related to the Power of Water Course


Reinventing Myself as a Professor: The Catalytic Role of SENCER by Terry McGuire

Ektina, E. and Mestre, J.P. 2004. Implications of Learning Research for Teaching Science to Non-Science Majors, 1-26.

Outside Resources

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, Summary for policy makers.

Excerpts from Lomborg, B. (2001) The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cambridge University Press, ISBN # 0-521-01068-3.

Plous, S. (1993) The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, McGraw Hill, ISBN # 0-07-050477-6.

Cialdini, R.B. (2001) Influence: Science and Practice, Allyn & Bacon; ISBN: 0321011473

Coraghessan Boyle, T. (2001). A Friend of the Earth, Penguin USA (Paper); ISBN: 0141002050

Hawken, P. Lovins, A. & Lovins, L.H. (1999) Natural Capitalism, Back Bay Books; ISBN: 0316353000

Steingraber, S. (1998). Living Downstream, Vintage books, ISBN# 0-375-70099-4