Syllabus

Fall 2020

This is a draft document until this sentence is removed.

Questions answered on our Canvas page:

  • What's the plan for our class meetings?
  • I want to talk.  How do I get in touch?
  • Where's the link to our book & readings?

Click to read answers to these questions:

Questions answered below:

  1. Why would a student want to take this course?
  2. What are the course objectives?
  3. Where do these objectives lead, intellectually and practially?
  4. What are the prerequisites? What should you already know?
  5. Why do the parts of the course come in the order they do?
  6. Will the course be primarily lecture, discussions, or group work?
  7. What do I expect from my students?
  8. What is the purpose of our assignments?
  9. What will the assignments be like? Memorization? Understanding? More?
  10. Why have these specific books been chosen?

 


1. Why would a student want to take this course?

Weather and climate affect our lives every single day, whether we like it or not.  It's how some people make small talk.  It determines what you wear.  It affects how we set environmental policies... and the fate of our planet.  Your life is intimately tied to the topics that we will talk about this semester.

2. What are the course objectives?

Students who participate in the course fully will be able to describe basic weather and climate phenomena and patterns to their family and friends, imparting an appreciation for nature and its impact on our lives.

Learning Outcomes.  Students who actively participate in the course will be able to:

  • Sketch and describe known properties of Earth’s atmosphere including vertical temperature variations, the greenhouse effect, and humidity
  • Explain the physical factors responsible for Earth’s changing climate
  • Discuss the reasons for variations in climate that are found across the United States and the planet
  • Solve problems that relate temperature, relative humidity, and the development of clouds
  • Label and interpret phenomena commonly found on weather maps
  • Compare actual weather conditions observed at the ground to weather radar and satellite imagery available via the Internet
  • Make simple forecasts of weather conditions based on knowledge of pressure areas, fronts, and air masses
  • Describe the origin, development, and impacts of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes; and in doing these things
  • Demonstrate the critical thinking skills expected in CAPP courses at IU.

3. Where do these objectives lead, intellectually and practially?

It's in the first sentence of Answer #2. I hope that you appreciate weather and our world a little more by the end of the semester, and that I'm able to help you learn enough so that you can be that cool friend who can say "Hey let's move inside, it's about to rain" or "A cold front is coming tonight, I need to bring a coat!".

4. What are the prerequisites? What should you already know?

None.  There are no expectations -- you do not have to be a scientist to take this course.

Many students come in very anxious about the possible use of math.  At the most, we will use percents, fractions, and a little algebra.  That's it.  One of the most complicated math problems you would face might be solving 0.32 = 14 / x.

5. Why do the parts of the course come in the order they do?

  1. We start at the big picture and work our way down.  The first topic: the makeup of Earth's atmosphere.  (For some of you, the last time you saw this was in 8th grade!)  Then, how these big picture processes shape Earth: global temperatures, distribution of life, and more.
  2. After that, we talk about some of the "elements" of weather.  Temperature.  Humidity.  Wind.  Clouds and precipitation.  Storms.
  3. Mixed in with those elements, as necessary, you get to learn about some of the tools that meteorologists use every day.  Instruments.  Weather maps.  Weather radar (which you have access to on your phone).
  4. The last couple weeks of the course are, right now, not scheduled.  We can decide later what special topics you might want to talk about in class.

6. Will the course be primarily lecture, discussions, or group work?

It's my goal to make our online sessions -- which will be live ("synchronous") but recorded -- as similar as I can to what in-person meetings would have been.  The reason for this?  I think learning is made better when students get to spend time solving problems with one another, not just sitting there while I click through slides.  Yeah, there has to be some of that, but not 75 minutes a day of it.

So our classes will have all three, in various percentages: some time with me talking to you ("lecture"); you talking to me ("discussion"); and you talking to teach other ("group work").

7. What do I expect from my students?

  • The purpose of being in C105 is to learn cool and interesting things, not simply to score points and get letter grades.  If we spend more time thinking about grades than about science, we've failed.
  • You deserve to have lots of opportunities to show me what you know, and in various ways.  Some of you are math stars; some are gifted in writing.  But I believe you can all do science, and you should get to show that in lots of different formats.
  • Your course grade should represent the quality and quantity of work that you actually demonstrate across the entire course.  It is not just a statistical computation or a mere collection of points to be earned.
  • A couple of semesters ago, a student said to me: “It should be a lot easier to get an A in your class.”  No, it should not.  IU is one of the top 100 universities in the country.  Delivering you an “easy” course would be an insult to all of us.

A-level work is described at most universities as excellent work.  The Free Dictionary even lists one synonym of excellent as “fantabulous.”  So yes, to earn an A, your work must be fantabulous!  As an A student you will skillfully apply your course knowledge in new and unfamiliar situations, and consistently demonstrate that you can think like and solve problems like someone on the way to pursuing a major in the field.  If you want to earn this grade, I will do all that I can to help you try to get there.

8. What is the purpose of our assignments?

In the face-to-face version of the course, the homeworks, warmup questions, and quizzes all build toward the exams -- the "high stakes" places where you get to demonstrate what you've learned.  But online, I spread the grades out a lot more.  So each assignment is like (graded) practice, a little bit at a time, so that you get more and more comfortable with the content in the course.  You'll see the same kinds of questions multiple times, so that you continually get more practice with each topic.

9. What will the assignments be like? Memorization? Understanding? More?

This is not a class where you can just "memorize the vocab" and do fine.  You have to use it.  Examples:

  • Know the textbook definition of a greenhouse gas?  Great. But can you describe the way that they do what they do?  Can you predict what Earth would be like without them?  Those are more complicated questions and are the kinds of things I would expect you to do.
  • Can you look at weather radar on your phone and know if it's raining outside?  Okay, that's a great start.  But next, how heavy is it raining?  How much water will be in your rain gauge?  How long will it rain before the storm moves on?  Do you see how those tasks are much more involved than just reciting a definition?

Technical explanation: I use Bloom's Taxonomy -- a lot -- when planning course content.  You'll do most of the "Remember" tasks on your own.  As a class, we will work on more complicated tasks: how to Understand weather phenomena, then Apply data to make forecasts, and then Analyze how all the pieces fit together.

10. Why have these specific books been chosen?

I wanted you to have the feeling of a "real" textbook, but with ZERO cost.  So I chose a free publication from the Federal Aviation Administration.  It's not perfect, but with some supplements it is definitely good enough for the price!

  • Aviation Weather (AC 00-6B)
  • Some supplements that I have written, on satellite imagery and on relative humidity and clouds
  • Pages from the NOAA/NWS JetStream page
  • Other free resources as necessary

The most important goal for me in this section: to ensure you pay zero for books.

 

 

Page updated on August 25th, 2020



About this Site

This site is essentially just a landing page for the course during registration. After the semester begins, we will use Canvas as our resource area.

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