Why teach Climate Change
Why should we teach climate change in middle school science? I’m sure science teachers all over the world don’t need the answer to this question, but here are the top 2 reasons:
- Science is real. Climate deniers and conspiracy theorists have a very large megaphone and social media loves them. Students are bombarded with fake news all the time, and humans need to have a working knowledge of science in order to recognize what’s real from what’s imaginary.
- The NGSS tells us we have to teach climate change. MS-ESS3-5 is a standard from the NGSS about the earth and human activity. It specifically says that students in the middle grades need to be able to “Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.” Included in this standard are factors such as fossil fuel combustion and natural processes such as solar radiation and volcanic activity. Students need to be able to analyze evidence and data to draw conclusions about the relationship between human activities and the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and methane.
Climate Change Lesson Plans
Using the 5E lesson plan strategy, here are 5 days of lesson plans that a middle school science teacher could follow to address climate change.
Unit Objective/I Can Statement: Student will be able to/I can: use evidence to ask questions about the rise in global temperatures.
Day 1 – Engage and Explore
- Warm Up – Energy Sources Problem Based Activity Part 1 – Imagine you’ve just inherited a beautiful unoccupied island. The island is huge with lots of room for hotels, a waterpark, an amusement park, a mall, a golf course – really, whatever you want. Brainstorm a list of things you want to include on your island.
- Form groups of 2-4 students either by interest or ability and provide posterboard and markers. [Alternately, have students draw their island on a Google Slide Show.] Give students 30 minutes to draw their island.
- Closure/Evaluation: Groups share the features of their island with the whole class.
Day 2/3 – Explore
- Warm Up – How can you provide power to your island? What kinds of power do you know about? Have students discuss with their groups and report out. Students likely will be able to name several sources of energy including petroleum, wind energy, solar energy, and hydroelectric power.
- Research sources of energy and compare them. Students should divide their groups and assign tasks for each with the goal of learning how each type of energy works. I provide students with a graphic organizer and sources to complete their research. Alternately, each group could research one type of energy and share it with the whole class as a jigsaw.
- Closure/Evaluation: Discuss with your group – based on the research into the different types of energy, which type is best suited for your island?
- Warm Up: Class discussion – What are the factors you used to determine which type of energy to use on your island? Keep track of ideas in a running list on the board. If students do not use environmental considerations as one of their factors, lead them to it.
- Climate Change SlideShow and cloze notes to identify the causes and effects of climate change.
- Closure/Evaluation: Brainstorm with group – How can you minimize your island’s carbon footprint?
Day 5 – Elaborate
- Warm Up – Summarize the causes and effects of climate change in a formative quiz. [[Download the climate change 4 question quiz here.]
- Energy Sources Problem Based Activity Part 2 – Design the power supply for your island. Student groups work on their island drawing to ensure that there is enough power for all of the features that they included.
- Closure/Evaluation: Share your project with the class.
How do you teach climate change?