Going Local with Global Warming


One difficult concept for students is the idea that weather exhibits far greater variability in temperature and precipitation on a daily basis than the relatively small, incremental changes we have documented with respect to contemporary climate change. The activities in this module reinforce the idea that climate change is a change in the statistical distribution of specific weather conditions over long periods. As humans, we are very experienced in observing weather through our senses on a daily basis, but we can’t be sure that the temperatures we experience constitute climate change unless we have a long record of temperature data to analyze. This is one of the biggest reasons why scientists have had difficulty communicating effectively with the public about climate change. A cross-cutting scientific theme identified in A Framework for K-12 Science Education by the National Research Council (2012) states that natural phenomena often take place at a spatial or temporal scale that are extremely small or large. For this reason, such phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience. For this reason, it is important that students have the opportunity to take the “big idea” of global climate change and scale it down to what it means for their own community.

Read “Just 5 Questions: Weather vs. Climate” for an interview with NASA Scientist Dr. Eric Fetzer. In the interview, Dr. Fetzer clarifies the important conceptual difference between weather and climate. As you read, pay close attention to what Dr. Fetzer says is the most compelling evidence of a warming world.

Examine the student activity “Observations of Climate Change.” Make sure you click on “For Teachers” and read “Teacher’s Guide: Observations of Climate Change.” Read “To Hypothesize or Not to Hypothesize?” by Jerome Pine on the last page of this document. Do you see the value in questioning as a driver of inquiry in your classroom?

Do you see a pedagogic advantage for having students look at a topic such as global climate change from a local, regional level?

How might you use all or parts of the “Observations of Climate Change” student activity in your classroom?

Global Climate Change Modules

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