Grades 10-12 Activity Guide

Climate Change in My Backyard Activity Descriptions

Unit 1: The Earth as a System

In Unit 1, students learn about the carbon cycle and the role that plants play in maintaining atmospheric concentrations of CO2, including photosynthesis and respiration of different plants under different conditions. They define provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services and look at the ways that they contribute to human wellbeing.

Unit 2: Identifying the key changing conditions of the Earth system

In Unit 2, students explore historical temperature cycles including paleoclimate data, more recent historical temperature changes, and current changes in temperature. They then apply one of those methods and use real temperature and tree-ring data to understand how tree growth is affected by both temperature and precipitation, and draw conclusions about what that means for the impact of changing climate on forests. They then expand the climate model beyond temperature to look at changes in precipitation and cloud cover in the United States. The unit continues by having students compare regional climate changes with overall global trends to identify similarities and differences in climate by region. Students recognize that climate change does not impact all areas of the globe equally or in the same ways. The unit concludes by having students write a persuasive essay using what they know about climate and ecosystem responses to climate change.

Unit 3: Earth system responses to natural and human-induced changes

In Unit 3, students learn how living things and ecosystems respond to and are impacted by changing climates. Students learn about how plant life-cycle events can be used to understand climate and how they have been used in the past. They participate in Budburst, a national citizen science project, and study how changing climates impact the timing of plant life-cycle events. Students explore the impacts of changing climates on plant migration by calculating seed dispersal rates for a variety of plant species and predicting whether they will be able to migrate quickly enough to keep pace with changing climates.

Unit 4: Predicting the consequences of changes for human civilization

In Unit 4, students explore the impacts of climate change on individuals around the world. They learn that climate change impacts people differently and that there are economic, social, cultural, and political factors that influence each individual’s beliefs about and decisions related to climate change. They then consider how their own choices can impact climate. Specifically they consider the energy requirements and environmental impacts of their food choices. The final lessons focuses on positive steps students can take to reduce their ecological footprint.