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What do trees know about Rain? Adapted for an online, non-majors botany course

Author(s): Liz Martin

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Minor modifications were made to this Data Nugget in order to use it in a fully online version of the introductory, non-majors botany course, Plants and People.

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 04 Mar 2018 doi:10.25334/Q4B976 - cite this


Background information - Earlier in the semester, students learned about tree rings, dendrochronology, and how climate can be inferred from ring width.  Throughout the semester, students practiced making and interpreting graphs.  They had been given two other Data Nuggets during the semester, so they were already familiar with the format of this assignment.  

Implementation of this assignment - I gave this to students as extra credit in order to get feedback on what the students thought of the assignment.  The only reason I gave it as extra credit is that by the time I discovered this particular Data Nugget, I had already moved on from this topic in lecture and it was a bit out of place topically. Next time, I will give it to students as we cover the related course content and it will make a nice homework assignment.

What the students enjoyed - I asked for feedback on what the students liked about the Data Nugget, and answers included learning more about a topic from earlier in the semester, presentation of the background information, and the fact that scientists can come up with a formula to approximate rainfall (this was the most popular answer).   

Ideas for next time - This Data Nugget nicely lends itself to a discussion on using models to predict outcomes.  There were different opinions on whether or not the formula accurately predicted rainfall, which could transition to a conversation on what goes into making a model or how confident scientists are with model outcomes.  I’m not sure I would approach such a conversation in an online environment, but I would in an in-person class where more moderation of the discussion is possible.

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