Phenomenon-based Learning Modules

Phenomenon-based learning is an educational approach that engages students in science. It starts with a “phenomenon,” or an attention-grabbing image or video clip that hooks students into the lesson. Ideally, phenomena should be visually interesting and not easily understood at first glance. Instead, phenomena should be complex ideas that get students to ask questions and draw upon multiple areas of science to help answer them.

For example, the tortoise phenomenon is a wacky story of a giant land tortoise that got washed across the Indian Ocean. The story can’t be fully explained without knowing about sea surface currents, wind patterns, and monsoon seasons. In addition, the story is good fodder for discussion about the differences between tortoises (who generally don’t swim) and their cousins, sea turtles, who make long migratory journeys across the oceans each year.

We use datasets from NOAA’s Science On a Sphere® (SOS) to help explore and explain science phenomena. If you are using SOS Explorer™ or SOS Explorer™ Mobile, look for datasets designated as “Available for: SOSx”. Phenomenon-based learning also pairs well with the Next Generation Science Standards.