In this project, student-scientists investigate the global impact and causes of climate change. Students learn about environmental issues like the greenhouse effect and climate change by conducting chemical investigations in the lab, doing research, and surveying their neighbors, parents, and friends to gauge awareness and feelings about climate change. Students speak to experts to gain a more informed perspective on their research. They use a wiki to develop and share knowledge about the environmental issues, and a class blog to share thoughts, debate responses, and reflect on their learning. As a culminating project, students develop a product to create awareness and encourage discussion in their community about climate change.
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the Beat the Heat Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.
Before you begin the unit, set up the online tools students will use, and practice manipulating the features. Set up practice sections for students to use to learn about the tools, and take special note of any help feature, such as tutorials and multi-language resources, if you have non-native speakers in your class. The tools students will use in this unit include:
Arrange for experts to work with student groups. Before you contact these individuals, think carefully about the following points, so you can plan for a good experience for your students and community members:
You will also want to review the NASA* web site for temperature data that students will be using as part of their research. This will ensure students get the most out of the online search tool.
Divide students into groups of 4 or 5 and ask them to brainstorm their thoughts about the Essential Question, What effects do our choices have on the world around us? Before beginning, review the discussion rubric with students to emphasize the criteria for effective discussion participation.
After students have brainstormed for 10-15 minutes, ask them to refine their discussion by addressing the following questions:
While students are in the same groups, explain that they are beginning a project on climate change. Ask them to complete the K (Know),W (Wonder), and H (How to learn) columns of their K-W-L-H charts in their groups. Conduct a large-group discussion of their charts. Introduce the following Content Questions during the discussion:
Ask students to respond in their journals to the following prompts:
Place students in groups of 4 or 5, and provide time to explore the basics of climate change through Internet research. Review rules for use of Internet and online resources, including online etiquette, language, laws, and requirements for documentation.
Outline the following process for conducting group research:
Explain to students that they will be using a wiki in the project. Demonstrate the different features of the class climate change wiki*. Point out any resources, such as help links or tutorials, to help students use the online tool, and create a practice wiki page where students can experiment using the features of the site.
Share the wiki rubric to set expectations for their work, and invite student additions or revisions. Assign each group a page on the wiki where they summarize and interpret their research on climate change. Distribute the wiki storyboard to help students plan their wiki pages. Students will use the wiki feedback checklist to give feedback to peers on their wiki pages.
Conduct a discussion about how students think temperatures vary around the globe and how these differences might be affected by climate change. Ask students what kind of information would be useful for drawing conclusions about this phenomenon.
Use information from the NASA* website to demonstrate how to use and interpret data to answer questions about climate change. Ask students to discuss the following questions in small groups and follow up with a large-group discussion:
Place students in groups and distribute the weather data analysis instructions. Ask students to complete the activity in an online spreadsheet, and add their chart and their conclusions to their wiki page. Before they begin working, review the collaboration rubric to set expectations for working in teams.
Explain to students that they will be using a blog in the project. Demonstrate the features of the Greenhouse Effect blog* and provide a practice entry and time for students to practice posting and responding. Point out any resources on the site, such as help links or tutorials, to help students use the blog features.
Place students in small groups and ask them to conduct further research on the following Content Questions and add any new information they find to their wiki pages:
Facilitate a large-group discussion on the Essential Question (What effect do our choices have on the world around us?) as it relates to climate change. After the discussion, ask students to post their views on the question, Are we responsible for climate change? on the class Greenhouse Effect blog*. Share and explain the blog checklist. Instruct students to go through each other's blog entries and post comments.
Ask student groups to create a climate change awareness survey* online for their parents, neighbors, and other community members. Ask students to analyze their findings using a graph or pie chart and add their results and conclusions to the class climate change wiki*.
Facilitate a large group discussion on the following Unit Questions:
Ask each group to share their research, survey, and analysis with an expert. Arrange a videoconference to discuss their findings and the Unit Question, What should be done in response to climate change? with an expert. Teach students how to participate in videoconferencing, record proceedings, and pose questions when speaking with experts online. Ask students to summarize what they learn from their videoconferences on their wiki pages.
Ask students to review the collaboration rubric and reflect on their teamwork skills in their journals.
Have students share their thoughts in response to the Unit Question, What should be done in response to climate change? on the class Greenhouse Effect blog*. Remind students to review the blog checklist before posting, and provide time for additional Internet research if needed. Instruct students to comment on each other’s responses.
Ask students to create a publication, such as a poster or newsletter, to create awareness of climate change. Distribute the publication scoring checklist and discuss the criteria with students, inviting student contributions as appropriate. After students complete drafts of their publications, ask them to use the scoring guide to self-assess their work, solicit feedback from peers and others, and revise as needed. Display the final publications in the school or in community locations.
Culminate the project by having students fill in the L (Learn) column of the K-W-L-H chart and reflect on the entire project in the class blog*. Encourage students to comment on other students’ reflections. Ask students to reflect on their goals in their journals.
This Unit Plan is adapted from the project idea implemented by Ms. Sinduja Sridhar, Inventure Academy, Bangalore, India.
Grade Level: 6-8
Subject: Earth Science
Topics: Ecology, Environment
Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Analysis, Argumentation, Problem Solving
Key Learnings: greenhouse gases, climate change
Time Needed: 15 class periods