Climate Change: It's All Around Us (Day 3 of 3)

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Students will be able to connect multiple ecological impacts of climate change through a jigsaw reading and discussion activity using current, popular resources.

Big Idea

How does climate change impact wildfires, the oceans, and glaciers? How do our national policies to fight climate change stack up against those of other nations? Students will find out through an engaging JigSaw Activity in this lesson!

Notes for the Teacher

I worked with this lesson for the first time last year when I piloted a lesson using using Stanford University's International Carbon Footprint Challenge resources.  Students were very curious to explore the subject further and I was looking for a way to broaden our conversion about the multiple aspects of climate change.  

Day 1 of this three day jigsaw activity gives students time to pick their topic area of interest and read and annotate their primary text.  

Day 2 provides students collaborative support to deepen their understanding of their topic area and

Day 3 is when it all comes together through a jigsaw discussion with their lab groups.  


For me as a teacher, this lesson met many of my overarching goals for the year, including:

  • bringing Common Core skills focusing on reading, analyzing, and comparing texts into our classroom through authentic experiences.
  • working with subjects and resources that engaged students in a personally relevant way.
  • providing opportunities for collaboration and discussion that encourages and develops student voice and science literacy.
  • allowing students to experience alternative points of view from around the world.
  • showing students how many different types of scientists there are and the range of science investigations that happen in the lab and in the field.  

The Classroom Flow: Introduction

10 minutes

1.  Remind students about their overall prompt (on the board) for this activity:

How is climate change affecting, transforming and connected to each of the following areas?

international politics 



marine life 

2.  Ask students to take two minutes to check in with their Four Corners expert group to ensure that every member of the group feels comfortable with the content of their assigned reading and discussion the previous day.  

3.  Tell students to get ready for the jigsaw activity by getting back with their lab group.  Each lab group should have one representative from each of the Four Corners groups.  If students are absent, help any group with a missing member buddy up with a nearby group to make sure they will have a presenter for each of the four articles.  

The Classroom Flow: Jigsaw!

25 minutes

1.  Once students are in their lab groups, each member will take a turn describing the major takeaways of their reading on climate change and politics, wildfires, marine life, or glaciers.

2.  As each expert describes their information, other group members take notes on the jigsaw connections document.  This document can help students focus their conversation and allows for a comprehension check within the group conversation.  Overall, students reported feeling supported by the different types of conversations they were having and the switch off between leadership and listening roles throughout our activity.  As I listened in to conversations and discussed their written work with them, I felt very confident that my students could talk confidently at length with their parents or any other person that they might talk to about our unit.

3.  Students can use additional time to ask clarifying questions and discuss their impressions while you circulate to assist groups with their discussion and comprehension.

The Classroom Flow: Guided Discussion and Follow Up

15 minutes

1.  To wrap up this activity, meet as a large group to talk about student impressions and comprehension of the articles they read individually and discussed collectively within their small groups using prompts like this: 

 What was one major takeaway you have from the article you read?

What was one part of your group discussion that surprised you most?

What questions came up for you after hearing about these climate change topics?

  • The major 'light bulb' moment I heard over and over again was that each article/topic impacted the others.  For example, the ash from wildfires makes its way to glaciers where it settles onto the ice.  Because of the dark color, the ash absorbs more sunlight/heat and that in turn melts the glaciers faster, releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which then mixes into the ocean water to form weak acids that impact marine life.  More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere sparks more policy discussions throughout the world and impacts wildfires, which also results in policy discussions and responses.  
  • The other comment I heard repeatedly centered on our role as a global leader;  it was memorable for students to read about our national perspective in comparison to what other industrialized nations believe and the policies they have enacted in regards to climate change.  


You can also read student written reflections on this activity after the unit was completed and watch my short video for more on the positive response students had to our topic, the collaborative approach to our primary texts, and the many strategies they used to construct meaning and make connections.  The only thing students asked for that we didn't do was more; more time to talk, more topics to explore, more international solutions to research, and more ideas for things we could do as a class and school to make an impact.

As well, see one of my students talk briefly about the experience in a video she created, enjoy!


Additional Resources for the Teacher

There are so many web resources available to teachers, it can be overwhelming at times.  Take a look at my short list of some of my current favorites that I used to help inspire my during lesson planning and directly with students.  Depending upon the class interest and the direction of our classroom discussions, I could either utilize information I had gained from the sites or pull them up for students to see for themselves and discuss more in depth.  The animations are short yet impactful and the length helped focus student attention and leave room for immediate feedback and responses.  And because I had done my homework, I was in a better position to lead and contribute to discussions, answer student questions, and ask more substantive, probing questions to continue conversations started by the students.