Grades 7-9, 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 including paleoclimate data, more recent historical temperature changes, 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 affect 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.

Activity 2.1: Climate and Recent Weather Patterns

  1. Weather or Not: Students review the difference between weather and climate.
  2. Recent Weather Patterns: Students then research current and recent historical weather using forecasts from newspapers and the web from different locations around the country. Students also research the climate of these locations and discuss differences in individual weather reports and descriptions of climate. They pose the question: how much data and what data do we need to determine whether the climate is changing?

Activity 2.2: 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 time frame of historical climate change, and to begin to understand the relationships between humans and climate.
  3. Explaining Temperature Variation: 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 2.3: Climate Change Around the World
Up until now, students have focused on only on temperature when evaluating the impacts of climate change. Now, students will discuss and add other climatic factors to their analysis and investigate how changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels impact temperature, and can also create changes in regional precipitation and cloud cover. Students then use the MY NASA DATA website to determine whether 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 affected differently or to different degrees by changing climates.

Activity 2.4: Causes and Effects of Climate Changes
This activity will give students an opportunity to work alone and in groups to summarize what they have learned so far about climate change. Students use graphic organizers to identify the natural and human-induced causes of climate change and its effects on plants, animals, and humans.