Earth's Changing Climate

37 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT use interactive models and real world data to explore and critically analyze Earth's changing climate

Big Idea

Remember the old adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Our Earth is in a period of warming but how warm will the planet get? Take a look at these models and data to make predictions about the future.

The Need for the Lesson

The internet is filled with info graphs. We are bombarded by visual representations of data. How do we help students make sense of all of these visual data representations?

The High-Adventure Science module developed by the Concord Consortium provides high quality interactive simulations, maps and data presented via graphs. Students answer questions about the images to guide them through the process of making sense of real world data.

Students need to be able to construct their own knowledge. Using visuals and interactive simulations students can make sense of difficult concepts that would be difficult to understand any other way. They can work as scientists analyzing vivid graphics and controlling variables in simulations to explore cause and effect, changes in systems and models for understanding.

Investigation Preparation & Summary

5 minutes

In this lesson students will use visuals to examine how climate has changed overtime. (MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.)

The High-Adventure Science - Activity 1 Earth's Changing Climates presents to students a short written explanation along with a visual graph or chart for students to examine and analyze. Boxes are provided for students answers. As the facilitator of this activity, I can run a report at any time to view student responses for all students, one student, all questions or one question. 

As students examine visual evidence via graphs and charts they are asked questions designed to mentor them as they reflect on what the visual images mean. (SP1 Asking Questions and Defining Problems)

The graphics in this first of five lessons lays the foundation for student inquiry in later lessons in this unit where they will manipulate variables using models. (SP2 Developing and Using Models)

Several of my students reported that their certainty regarding predictions was average or low. This creates a need to know as students move forward in this unit, interacting with simulations. They will be changing variables in models to make sense of systems behavior. (SP3 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations)

Students are actively engage in analyzing and interpreting data as each section of this lesson presents students with a graph. Students are asked questions designed to guide them through interpretation of the graphs. (SP4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data)

Students are asked to explain the significance of data represented. (SP6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions)

Questions encourage students to support their explanation using evidence from the visual images. (SP7 Engaging in Argument from Evidence)

Students communicate their evaluations of the visual representation by answering questions throughout the online activity using spaces provided. (SP8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information)

Enrollment in the activity is required to record student responses. There are two methods:

  1. Enroll students yourself. Using this method, you enter student names and create their user name / password. 
  2. Have students enroll themselves.

I enrolled one class, which made me familiar with the process. This could also be a significant time saver for classes that don't have 1-1 computing, or students who are unfamiliar with setting up accounts (although they do need to learn this at time point). For all the other classes, I had the students self-enroll.

This lesson uses the High-Adventure Science activity - What is the future of Earth's climate? developed by the Concord Consortium.

"What Is the Future of Earth's Climate?" High-Adventure Science. Concord Consortium, 2015. Web. 23 May 2015.

Students in Action

45 minutes

Students in Action

I begin by engaging students in a whole class discussion. I want to prepare them mentally for today's lesson. 

How do we know the that the Earth's climate is changing? (Scientists can look at temperature changes over time.)

What human activities have been linked to the Earth's climate change? (Humans have created greenhouse gasses by using fossil fuels. The greenhouse gasses warm the planet.)

How can scientists make informed predictions about the future of the Earth's climate? (Scientists should look at trends over time. When we collect data, we can use it to create a model showing how climate changed over time in the past, we can use this information to model the future.)

In this lesson you will work as a scientist looking at the Anthropocene epoch, that is a proposed geological time when human activity has a significant global impact on the Earth's ecosystems.

There are eight sections and fourteen questions. Each section has a visual representation of data and a short passage to read. Answer the questions using the information presented on each page.

Screen Shot of Student Page

If you need to clarify your understanding it is perfectly acceptable for you to confer with the scientists at your table group. You may also ask me any clarifying questions you have about the lesson. 

The website provides suggested answers to each question. I use these notes as I circulate around the room as students work. I like to work with my students one-to-one or in small groups. The High-Adventure Science format also allows me to run a report at any time. The reports can be generated for all students or one student, all questions or a single question.

In this section's resources, you will find a sample report generated at the end of each section. My students select the print option and select PDF as their printer. The PDF responses are then shared with me via Google Drive (no paper!).

I find students are actively engaged in their exploration of the site. In this short video, I share some of the reasons my students found this simulation more engaging than others.

Connecting the Learning

5 minutes

The final question question in this model was the most powerful for my students.

Explain how scientists can be both fairly certain that Earth is warming and still actively researching the unknown factors?

Student answers are on the mark and they know that scientists do not know all the reasons for Earth's warming and they need to continue their research to find additional factors and interactions so they can predict the future.

What can we infer about the nature of science? Do scientists have all the answers?

This starts a great discussion. Scientists and we as humans still have a lot to learn about our planet. A student references a TED video we watched where the speaker suggested that we know less than 1% about the inner workings of a cell. Another students reminds us of an article that suggests that two-thirds of the organisms in the ocean are still being discovered. 

As scientists we do not know all the answers. Science is ongoing discovery and applying new knowledge to what we already know. We need to ask questions, make inferences and ask more questions.