Announcing High-Adventure Science: Earth's Systems and Sustainability
The National Science Foundation has funded an extension to the well-received original High-Adventure Science. High-Adventure Science: Earth's Systems and Sustainability (HAS: ESS) will continue to bring cutting edge science into the middle- and high-school classroom, this time with a particular focus on Earth's systems and using resources in a sustainable manner.
High-Adventure Science is bringing some of the big unanswered questions in Earth and Space Science to middle and high school science classrooms. Students investigate the mechanisms of climate change, learn how scientists use modern tools to find planets around distant stars, and evaluate whether underground stores of water will be sufficient to support a growing population.
Scientists get excited about what they don't know. They’re not intimidated by questions without answers; instead, they tackle them head-on like a great unsolved mystery. They look at data and evidence, make observations, formulate ideas, and ask new questions.
High-Adventure Science develops computer-based investigations around compelling unanswered questions in Earth and Space Science to help students learn science like scientists.
Each investigation includes interactive computer-based models, real-world data, and a video of scientists currently working on the same unanswered questions. Students use the models, interpret the data, and draw conclusions just as scientists would. Embedded within the investigations are explanation-certainty item sets that stimulate students to think critically in order to explore evidence and discuss the issues of certainty with the models and data.
Three new curricular units will be developed, with a focus on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") to release oil and natural gas from shale; the extraction of rare-earth elements for electronic components; and land-usage practices with respect to human development. The three original High-Adventure Science units will continue to be freely available; two of them—the climate unit and the water unit—will be further developed in HAS: ESS.
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.
Click on any box to learn more about the research and development activities for High-Adventure Science. Check out the publications tab to read more about the High-Adventure Science curricula and research.
High-Adventure Science Funded
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 conclusions.
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?
Read the High-Adventure Science Project Proposal »
What is the future of Earth’s climate?
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.
Will there be enough fresh water?
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.
Try the Is there life in space? activity »
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?
Will the air be clean enough to breathe?
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.
Development of Explanation-Certainty Item sets
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 investigations.
Elaboration of the Theoretical Construct
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 scientific categories.
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.
Results from Classroom Tests
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.
Read the High-Adventure Science Project Final Report »
Formative Research: Design Studies
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.
Elaboration of Systems Dynamics Construct
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.
Classroom Design Studies
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.
High-Adventure Science Lesson Overviews
Will the air be clean enough to breathe? Video Overview
What will be Earth's climate in the future? Video Overview
What are our energy choices? Video Overview
Can we feed the growing population? Video Overview
Will there be enough fresh water? Video Overview
The systems thinking item sets posed in High-Adventure Science curriculum and assessments are designed to help students: recognize the parts of a system and how they interact; understand the dynamic behavior and emergent phenomena that occurs when parts interact; and focus on the flow of energy and matter throughout a system. Download the Systems Thinking Assessment.
Will the air be clean enough to breathe? Teacher Guide
What will be Earth's climate in the future? Teacher Guide
What are our energy choices? Teacher Guide
Can we feed the growing population? Teacher Guide
Will there be enough fresh water? Teacher Guide
Is there life in space? Teacher Guide
Registering your students in the Portal
The High-Adventure Science modules are freely available on our web portal. If you choose to register your classes, you will be able to collect student data electronically and generate reports of student work. See the Portal User Guide for instructions about using the web portal.
See the video on setting up a class in our portal. Portal User Guide video
Articles and Papers
Pallant, A., & Pryputniewicz, S. J. (2015). Great Questions Make For Great Science Education. @Concord 19(1) 4-6.
Pallant, A., & Lee H.-S. (2015). Constructing scientific arguments using evidence from dynamic computational climate models. Journal of Science Education and Technology. 24 (2-3) 378-395. doi 10.1007/s10956-014-9499-3.
Lee, H-S, Liu, O.L, Pallant, A., Roohr, K. C., Pryputniewicz, S., & Buck, Z. (2014). Assessment of uncertainty-infused scientific argumentation. The Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 51(5), 581-605.
Pallant, A. (2014). Monday's Lesson: Modeling an Agricultural System @Concord, 18(1), 7.
Pallant, A. (2013) Encouraging Students to Think Critically About Earth's Systems and Sustainability.The Earth Scientist. 29 (4), 13-17.
Pallant, A. (2013). No Simple Answers—How models and data reveal the science behind environmental topics. The MEES Observer. May.
Pallant, A. (2013). The Future of Fracking: Exploring Human Energy Use. @Concord 17(1) 10-11.
Pallant, A., Lee, H-S, & Pryputniewicz, S. (2013, April) Promoting Scientific Argumentation with Computational Models. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Puerto Rico.Lee, H-S, Pallant, A., Pryputniewicz, S. & Liu, O.L, (2013, April) Measuring Students' Scientific Argumentation Associated with Uncertain Current Science. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Puerto Rico.
Pallant, A., Damelin, D., & Pryputniewicz, S. (2013). Deep Space Detectives. The Science Teacher. 80 (2). 55-60.
Pallant, A., Lee, H-S., & Pryputniewicz, S. (2012). Modeling Earth's Climate. The Science Teacher. 79 (7), 31-36.
Pallant, A., Lee, H-S., & Pryputniewicz, S. (2012). Exploring the Unknown. The Science Teacher. 79 (3), 60-65.
Pallant, A & Lee, H-S. (2012). Summary of High-Adventure Science Final Report: Goals and Findings. DRL-0929774.
Pallant, A & Lee, H-S. (2012). High-Adventure Science Final Report to the National Science Foundation. DRL-0929774.
Pallant, A. (2011). Looking at the Evidence: What We Know. How Certain Are We? @Concord, 15(1), 4-6.
Pallant, A. (2011). Modeling the unknown is high adventure. @Concord, 14(1), 6-7.
Pallant, A & Lee, H-S. (2011). High-Adventure Science Annual Report to the National Science Foundation. DRL-0929774.
Pallant, A. & Lee, H-S, (2011, April) Characterizing uncertainty with middle school students' scientific arguments. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Orlando, FL.
- About High-Adventure Science
- Learn more about the High-Adventure Science project in this video overview.
- Climate Modeling: Using History to Inform the Future
- What will Earth's climate be in the future? In this video, created for the High-Adventure Science project, Dr. Mark Chandler, a climate scientist for NASA, discusses supercomputer models designed to simulate Earth's systems and explore the answer to this question.
- Fresh Water: Using Water Responsibly
- Will there be enough fresh water for the growing human population? In this video, created for the High-Adventure Science project, Dr. Holly Michael, a hydrogeologist at the University of Delaware, discusses mathematical models of groundwater flow and the human impact on water supplies around the world.