Impact of Climate Change

27 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT describe the potential impacts of climate change on living things in a variety of ecosystems.

Big Idea

Now that we have learned about the causes of climate change, we will learn how it affects living things around the world.


5 minutes

I start the lesson by playing the Acoustic News: Climate Change Edition video. Not only does this activate prior knowledge from the prior lesson, it helps to frame the context for today's learning.

Next, I ask students to define the word, "ecosystem". Since we have learned about ecosystems in our Zoology unit, this should be a review for them. (For classes who have not completed this unit, it is important to establish that an ecosystem includes all of the populations if different species that live together in the same area.)

I ask the students to provide examples of ecosystems, such as deserts, forests, tundras, etc. I explain to the students that we will be exploring how climate change can affect living things within a variety of different ecosystems and sharing this new learning with our classmates. 


This lesson is adapted from the unit, "Climate Change: Connections and Solutions, created by Facing the Future.


30 minutes

I divide the students into groups of 4-5, giving each group a choice of one of the Climate Change articles.* If students do not know the origin or geographic location of their selected ecosystem, I help them to find it on our classroom world map, and allow them to take a few minutes to research the area online and/or using an atlas.  Next, I have students take turns reading aloud sections of their article to the rest of the group. After reading the entire article, I have them reread, highlighting information that describes the potential effects of climate change on their given species.

After completing the reading and highlighting, each group discusses the impact/s described in their articles, and then plans a short skit to illustrate this information for their classmates. (The skits should be 2 to 5 minutes long at most.)

I only give the students about 10-15 minutes to plan their skits, stressing to them that I do not expect Oscar worthy performances with elaborate costumes and props, but rather to focus on the message and the information they are trying to convey.

*Each of the 9 articles vary in reading level, so you may select them for the groups as a way to differentiate for reading ability. See my reflection for more information.


10 minutes

Once the students have had time to plan and practice their skits, I bring the class back together and allow each group to present their skits, one at a time. After each group's performance, I ask the audience members to share what they learned, calling on random students to share their ideas. If the students did not understand the skit, I randomly select one spokesperson from the group to explain the ecosystem and the impact they were attempting to portray, including specific information, examples, and/or evidence from the article they read.


10 minutes

Now that we have had a chance to explore some of the potential effects of climate change, I want to provide the students with a chance to think deeper and discuss their ideas with their classmates. For the next part of the lesson, I use an Inside, Outside Circle  to get the students up and moving. For each round of the activity, I pose questions related to the content and provide 1-2 minutes of think time before allowing them to speak with their partner. Each partner has a chance to share before we move and discuss a new question. I require that students DO NOT simply say, "I agree",  "Me too", or some other quick response. They must state their claim and provide reasoning to justify it. (I have provided students with sentence frames at the beginning of the year. They may use these throughout the activity.)

As an addition to the traditional Inside, Outside Circle, I always select a random student to reiterate their partner's ideas. That holds each partner responsible for actively participation in both the listening and speaking portions of the activity.

I ask questions such as:

  • What areas of Earth do you think are the most vulnerable to climate change? Why?
  • In what ways some people benefit from climate change?
  • Which effects of climate change will have the greatest effect on Earth's ecosystems?
  • What are some other living things in the ecosystem you read about that might be affected by changes in the climate? How?
  • How might our ecosystem change if global temperatures rise?

Day 2: Evaluate

50 minutes

As a final assessment of learning, I have students create a video or poster that illustrates the potential impacts on the ecosystem they studied, including the animal they read about, and other living things in the same ecosystem. Their poster should not only illustrate the possible effects, but should also provide tips on how to lessen the impact by changing human behaviors.

I show the video below* as an example:

*More videos can be viewed (and/or used as examples) on the National Geographic site, Young Voices for the Planet.

Students present their final projects in class and field questions/feedback from their peers. I assess their projects using the provided rubric.


Student Example: