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The is a curriculum module from the project Data Sets and Inquiry in Geoscience Education (DIGS). The module consists of a week-long unit and two-day performance assessment in which students apply the inquiry skills to problem-based investigations of urban micro-climates. The unit and performance assessment present semi-parallel tasks but about different cities (Phoenix and Chicago). Sudents draw conclusions about the extent to which multiple decades of temperature data about Phoenix suggest that a shift in local climate is taking place as opposed to exhibiting nothing more than natural variability. The data are from the Global Climate Historical Network (GHCN) database. GHCN is a large, multi-year, international project to measure temperature, precipitation, and air pressure from near the ground. Each monthly maximum and minimum temperature is the highest and lowest temperature reading for the month, measured in Celsius. In Phoenix and in most other places, the temperature data are collected at local airports. The performance assessment for this module requires that students apply the methods and findings from the investigation of the climate data for Phoenix to climate data for Chicago. The Chicago data shows less evidence of trends in temperature change, and this is most evident comparing the night-time minimum temperature fluctuations between the two cities. Chicago also exhibits less increase in urban development and population growth than does Phoenix. In contrast to the curriculum unit, which primarily uses constructed-response tasks to encourage student explanation and discussion, the climate assessment tasks pose explicit selected- and constructed-response questions to ensure that the items elicit the intended thinking and hence provide evidence of the targeted standards-aligned skills and understandings.
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