Lesson Preparation - UCAR Center for Science Education

A Day in the Life of a Climate Scientist
Lesson Design
Grade Level: 5-6
Subject Area: Earth Science
Lesson Topic (What is the “big idea?”): What standard(s) and/or IEP goal(s) will it address?
There are many different ways to gain accurate information about past climate and make sound predictions about future
Climate Literacy Principles:
4e: Based on evidence from tree rings, other natural records, and scientific observations made around the world, Earth’s
average temperature is now warmer than it has been for at least the past 1,300 years.
5a: The components and processes of Earth’s climate system are subject to the same physical laws as the rest of the
5b: Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
Supporting Colorado Science Standards:
-Life Science 2.1: Changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms, populations, and
entire species
Related Colorado Math Standards: 5.2.2, 6.2.2, 7.2.1, 8.2.1
Main Objective of Instruction (What do you want the student(s) to learn?):
Students will be be able to identify proxy versus observational data, and how they are both used in computer climate
Supporting Objectives:
Students will understand that there are many career paths that support scientific research
Students will observe the unusual spike in temperature that has occurred since the industrial revolution
Students will begin to predict that a human influence has caused that spike
Specific Strategies to be taught/modeled:
-using geometry to create simple graph paper
-graphing data
-interpreting graphs
-following lab directions
-precise measurement and recording
Planning for individual differences (mediated scaffolding): What are the accommodations/modifications you need
to prepare?
Students background knowledge will vary greatly. Most parts of the lesson provide opportunities for students to
participate at their level. For group activities, groups will be mixed levels.
Students will receive behavioral and academic support from para-educators.
What background knowledge do the students have/need?
- basic numeracy skills to understand relative values of temperature measurements.
- an understanding of graphic representation of data in order to understand graphs.
- an understanding of what data is and how it is recorded
- an understanding that climate varies dramatically naturally
- an understanding that earth is made of interrelated systems
How will you assess students’ learning – pre, during and post?
Pre- Students will answer a brief pre-test responding about whether or not they think the past climate information I gave
them is accurate, and how it could be.
During- While working in groups on graphing activities, the teacher will monitor understanding
Post- Students will respond to several skeptic statements about past and future climate verbally or in writing.
Materials and Resources:
Students will need large graph paper and three sets of prediction data.
lab materials will be needed for the ice core lab
Lesson Plan
Lesson Title: So… How’s the Weather?
Main Objective of this lesson: Students will be able to describe the difference between weather and climate
Session 1
Anticipatory Set – How will you get the student(s)’ attention?)
I will begin by challenging students about the accuracy of the prior graphs they created by saying I think they
did an excellent job on the execution, but I’m surprised nobody (or only a few people) asked me about the
accuracy of the data. How do you know I didn’t make it up? Maybe something else caused extinction… How
can we find out if I was pulling your leg or not? How do you think scientists can find information about the
temperature from so long ago?
Do you think I was telling you the truth? (ungraded)
How do we know about the other events… such as extinctions? (carbon dating) we’ll touch on it later
How could we possibly know the temperature of the past?
One question about past climate or science of the past climate (paleoclimatology)
If we knew about the past, do you think we’d be able to predict the future climate?
If so, how would we do that?
If not, why not?
10 minutes talking, 5 minutes writing or texting
Thanks for your answers. I know some of you might be surprised, but actually I didn’t lie to you… I like your
skeptical attitude though. Science has to do with evidence. A lot of the time, there is a lot of evidence for
something, so it is very likely it was that way, but not necessarily certain, so scientists often talk about how sure
they are. Even with gravity, we say it is a theory, because it cannot be proven that it occurs with all matter
everywhere. Nonetheless… we all know it’s true. (give example of falling) I want you to be careful
“consumers” of information.. always ask how the person talking knows what they are talking about, including
me. (tomorrow we’ll move on to future climate, so think about how we could possibly have information about
Our knowledge about the past climate is not quite as strong as gravity, but it’s very strong. (answer pre-test
questions and lead into powerpoint)
15 minutes lecture, 10 minute artifact exploration, 20 minutes finish powerpoint (including videos/career
Homework: Answer how you think we might know about future climate, how certain our knowledge might be
(in percentages), if you would trust that information and why, and one question
Session 2
Check for UnderstandingSwitch roles. Pretend to be a visitor to the classroom, and remark on the graphs the students did. Ask, how
could you possibly know about past temperatures? Give alternate explanations for the events shown.
Guided Practice or Discovery:
Ice core lab demo/discussion
Independent Practice:
Ice core lab completion
lab discussion and paleoclimatology wrap-up
Session 3
use fashion models as examples/hook (male and female)
Answer pre-test questions about predicting the future climate (compare to predicting weather)
(5 min)
Modeling intro: supercomputers, no sample earth (the only way to prove is to have another one, but computers
are as close as we can get)
Models are never perfect, just like paleoclimate data is never perfect… examples
But, models can often be very close, especially within a “range.”
Guided practice
Use our own temperature data as an example, define “trend” and data sets…
(15 minutes)
Independent practice
Have students practice identifying a trend, and making a prediction based on data. (15 minutes)
Explain how the trend can be “built into” a model and give examples. (Show fortran code) and give examples
of video games as models. (use algebra) (10 min)
Show visualizations of climate.
Discuss how the more variables there are, the harder it is to say for sure what climate will be like.
(Just like the more different things going on in students lives make it harder for me to understand why they are
behaving a certain way)
(or if there are more different things happening in a video game, the harder it is to predict how you’ll do)
Supercomputer models are like giant video game, but instead of us being the player, the world is the player. We
start back a hundred years ago and more, and hit “play” Each time the outcome is a little different because of all
the variables, but it’s similar. Talk about the time it takes to do this, and how many supercomputers there are
that do this.
Show one more visualization (25 minutes)
Session 4:
Disclaimer we’ll talk about carbon dioxide very soon, but for now, just know it’s a gas in the atmosphere that is
measurable, and that this model is based on a trend between carbon dioxide and temperature.
Guided practice
The very simple climate model run-throughs with me, with explanation (20 min. including walking)
Independent practice
Have students record what they did, and what they noticed (20 min.)
After returning to class, touch back on supermodels, have a quick vocabulary recap, and an explanation of basic
concepts. Begin to address students concern about human caused warming.