What Are We Coming Home To? (Part 3)

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SWBAT explain the potential impacts that the rise in global temperatures can have on the Earth and our way of life.

Big Idea

Students use their research skills to determine all of the ways that global warming can impact life on Earth, specifically how pests may have altered our ecosystems due to the warmer temperatures.


15 minutes

During the last lesson, students developed a list of questions that, for some, can be quite overwhelming. Not only can the amount of questions pose a challenge, but the depth of some of the questions can be intimidating for some students.  For example, the impacts of climate change on crop production and ecosystems are very complex and multi-layered. The goal of this lesson is to help students get started finding answers to these questions, specifically focusing on insects and invasive species that might impact crops and/or ecosystems. 

By this time, student groups have divided up the research questions and began looking for answers, in short, they have had enough time to become lost and confused with what they should be doing.  

I begin by asking students, "At this point, who feels a little confused or overwhelmed by your task?" and allow them to share their thoughts and struggles (there is no point to pretending it is not there, best to let them vent a bit so I can show them how to move past it, a.k.a - a great learning opportunity).

The following video is from HHMI Biointeractive and follows Liz Hadly as she explains the impact that climate change has had on Yellowstone National Park. I explain to students that we are going to watch this video and then discuss as a class some specifics about this video and how we can use what we learned to help us with our research.


20 minutes

The Discussion Questions handout comes from the HHMI Biointeractive website in which they suggest having students complete the worksheet as they watch the video.  I prefer to have students watch the video with no distractions and then work in small groups to answer the questions and follow with a class discussion.

I very much like the questions provided as they ensure students fully understand the main points of the video.  It is important to point out to students how the scientists in the video connected multiple pieces of data to draw conclusions as they will need to do this while completing their research.  For example, the video began by showing healthy white pine trees and their importance to the ecosystem as a producer of food for squirrels and bears.  Hadley went on to describe how the white pine beetle, a commonly found animal within Yellowstone, is having a larger impact on the white pine trees because they live longer and can reach into new areas.  They then point out the effects of that change.  The following video demonstrates how I do this with my students.


10 minutes

At this point, I ask students how we can use what what we saw in the video to help us with our own research.  The video began by looking at what the healthy ecosystem looked like and then compared it to the "damaged" ecosystem.  Students can follow that same model or they can look at common pests in different areas around the United States and determine how warmer temperatures might give them a similar advantage as seen in the video.  (This is similar to an activity students completed during a lesson on using fossils to infer prehistoric ecosystems so my students are comfortable with this method and have some background with this.)

The following map is used in a upcoming lesson that focuses on changes in extreme whether events but can also be used here.  Student groups can be assigned to different regions of the US to make the research more manageable (Northeast (dark green), Southeast (red), Midwest (light green), Southwest (blue), and Northwest (purple)).  

I ask students how they think we can begin this task and create a list for them to follow such as:

  • determine what the healthy ecosystem(s) found within your region are like (what plants and animals, average rainfall, seasons, temperatures, etc)
  • look into any changes to the above factors within the last few decades (1980-present)
  • determine how those factors have impacted/will impact that region

Students will work as a group to divide up the task of determining the impacts of climate change on crop production, pests and ecosystem changes within their assigned region over the next 2-3 days, making sure to update their information in the Organizer: Research Questions (you will have to rename this resource!).