Grades 5-6, Unit 2

Climate Change in My Backyard Activity Descriptions

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

In Unit 2, students learn about the difference between weather and climate. They then look at historical temperature cycles using paleoclimate data, more recent historical climate records and current changes in temperature. 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 with a persuasive essay asking students to apply what they have learned about climate and climate change.

Activity 2.1: Weather or not?

  1. Weather vs. Climate: Students learn the difference between climate and weather by using scenario cards and by creating and presenting skits that illustrate climate or weather.
  2. Measuring the Weather:Students use thermometers and other weather instruments to make observations and measurements of weather.
  3. Our Weather and our Climate: Students compare the weather data they have collected with data on their local climate and consider how closely daily weather patterns match the expected climate.

Activity 2.2: Recognizing Change (Observation vs. Inference)
Students learn the difference between an observation and an inference. Then, they view pictures and graphs documenting evidence for climate change. They will make observations and inferences based on the pictures.

Activity 2.3: Historical Climate Cycles

  1. Visualizing Historical Climate Cycles: This activity introduces students to the idea of historical climate cycles. Students will observe temperature data from the past 400,000 years to understand that Earth’s climate has changed in the past.
  2. Graphing Climate Cycles: Students graph temperature data from 10,000 years ago to the present to create a visual representation of how temperatures have increased at an accelerated pace in the recent past, as compared to the historical climate record. If desired, students can place key events in environmental and human history on the timeline to demonstrate the timeframe of historical climate change. This will help them begin to understand the relationships between humans and climate.
  3. Comparing Temperature and CO2: Lastly, students compare the graph of temperature over the past 400,000 years along with a graph of carbon dioxide concentrations during that time. By analyzing these graphs together, students recognized the connection between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and temperature.

Activity 2.4: Climate Change Around the World

  1. Global Climate Change: Up until now, students have focused on only on temperature in evaluating climate change. Now students add other climatic factors to their analysis and investigate how climate change includes not only temperature, but can also changes in precipitation levels and cloud cover.
  2. Climate Change in my Backyard: Students use the MY NASA DATA website to determine whether U.S. and global patterns of climate change are directly reflected in their city and in cities around the world. They discuss why different locations around the world are impacted differently or to different degrees by changing climates.

Activity 2.5: Causes and Effects of Climate Change (Assessment/Persuasive essay)
Students use a graphic organizer to identify what they have learned about climate change, its causes and effects. They then use the organizer to structure a persuasive essay to reflect on the causes of climate change and the impacts of natural and human induced change.